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LONDON, June 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Hundreds of patients wrongly received life-shortening doses of opiates at a U.K. National Health Service hospital for 12 years, a public inquiry has revealed. 

The inquiry into Gosport War Memorial Hospital revealed last week that between 1989 and 2000 at least 456 people, and very likely 200 more, died after being given painkilling drugs they did not need. 

Although the report singled out the now-retired Doctor Jane Barton as primarily responsible for the killings at the Hampshire hospital, it revealed also a culture of euthanasia at the English hospital, particularly of the elderly, involving senior management, nurses and managers.

The Gosport Independent Panel was created in 2014. It reviewed over a million pieces of evidence and interviewed members of the families of, or requested the records of,  2,024 patients who died at the hospital between 1987 and 2001. A quarter of the records were missing. 

The Panel revealed that between 1989 and 2000, “which appears to cover the start and end” of the suspicious pattern of over-prescription of opiates:

There was a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients.

There was an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering “dangerous doses” of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified, with patients and relatives powerless in their relationship with professional staff.

When the relatives complained about the safety of patients and the appropriateness of their care, they were consistently let down by those in authority — both individuals and institutions.

The senior management of the hospital, healthcare organisations, [the police], the coronial system, the Crown Prosecution Service, the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) all failed to act in ways that would have better protected patients and relatives, whose interests some subordinated to the reputation of the hospital and the professions involved.

Nursers voiced their suspicions that patients were being killed by wrongful prescription of opiates in 1988 and again in 1991. Twenty years ago, families of the deceased began to demand an investigation. With the release of the inquiry, the Gosford Independent Panel assured the families that their suspicions were correct:

“Having looked at documents covering the whole period since 1987, the Panel can say: “Yes, we have listened and yes, you, the families, were right. Your concerns are shown to be valid.” 

“Indeed, as this Report shows, the practice of anticipatory prescribing and administering opioids in high doses affected many patients and families – not only those who have led the way in pressing for the truth, but also very many other families.” 

In response to the inquiry, Norman Lamb, a former health minister, asked for a new police investigation into the deaths. The current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told the House of Commons that criminal charges may result from the inquiry.

“The police, working with the CPS and clinicians as necessary, will now carefully examine the new material in the report before determining their next steps,” he  said, “and in particular whether criminal charges should now be brought.” 

He apologized on behalf of the government and the National Health Service.