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Sydney Hospital Apologises For Overdosing 88-Year-Old Patient

Sydney’s North Shore Private Hospital has apologised to the family of an 88-year-old grandmother who passed away in 2013 after receiving an overdose of prescription medication.

The ABC reported that Audrey MacGregor, grandmother of 17, was given five milligrams of hydromorphone (a derivative of morphine), which is more than 10 times the prescribed dose. When the error was discovered, Mrs MacGregor received another drug to counter the effects – but obviously to avail.

However, the post-mortem examination by the Department of Forensic Medicine’s forensic pathology Rebecca Irvine found that the death was caused by complications from pneumonia.

Dr Irvine said: “There is no objective evidence … that she received a toxic amount that would have contributed to her death”.

“I believe she was dying … she was starting to fade even before she was given the hydromorphone.”

Other experts agree that it was clearly an overdose, but whether or not the drug killed Mrs MacGregor remains a mystery.

Mrs MacGregor was prescribed the medication to slow her breathing from a rate of 55 breaths per minute, the inquest heard.

“Someone who has a respiratory rate of 55 … I can not imagine they would not be in distress. That is a person fighting to breathe literally every second,” Dr Irvine said.

The hospital’s statement, released this week, read:

“North Shore Private Hospital is deeply saddened by this incident and has apologised to the patient’s family. The hospital has cooperated fully with the coroner’s investigation.

“At the time of the incident, the hospital promptly undertook its own internal review and has already implemented several improvements such as improved medication labelling; increased education of clinical staff; and policy changes that limit prescribing to specific specialty medical practitioners.”

Mrs MacGregor’s son Philip MacGregor said he believed the death had upset hospital staff.

“I’m concerned for their welfare because we don’t hold a grudge against them,” he said. “I know they were trying to help mum and it didn’t work out.”

Mrs MacGregor’s husband Walter said he had enjoyed 61 years of marriage.

“She was a wonderful woman” he said. “I miss her greatly”.


Image via The ABC – provided by the MacGregor family.



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Alana Lowes

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