Hospital owns up over drug overdose that killed girl

by CHRIS BROOKE, Daily Mail

A hospital has admitted blame after a three-year-girl died from a massive drug overdose while being treated for cancer.

Naazish Farooq Khan appeared to be responding well to treatment at St James's Hospital in Leeds when she suddenly died during the night.

Doctors told her parents she had had a heart attack linked to her lymphatic cancer, and issued a death certificate.

But four weeks later detectives contacted Mohammed Khan, 38, and his wife Safia Sultana, 34, to reveal that their daughter had suffered chemical poisoning.

Her body was exhumed and West Yorkshire police began an inquiry. Tests showed an overdose of potassium chloride was to blame.

Naazish was being given the chemical as part of dialysis treatment while having chemotherapy.

Yesterday Mr Khan, a software engineer, accused hospital staff of a cover-up.

He said: 'It was only because one particular doctor with a conscience badgered senior staff that the hospital management had to call in the police.

'That death certificate should never have been issued. Everybody in the hospital knew why she had died, but nobody told us.'

After a 10-month police investigation the Crown Prosecution Service decided no crime had been committed. Naazish's death, in October 1999, was put down to an accidental error.

An inquest was due to be held last week, after the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted liability. But it was adjourned because health chiefs refused to pay her family's legal costs.

Family solicitor Paul Balen said: 'This family has been abysmally treated. The refusal to help them at the inquest is scandalous.

'Naazish was being given potassium chloride - which is used to execute prisoners on Death Row in the U.S. - as part of the dialysis treatment. The amount the child was given was huge.

'You are supposed to do tests to check the levels in the blood, but the test wasn't done. The person guessed and got it very wrong.'

It was in September 1999 that Naazish first fell ill. Within days she was in intensive care at St James's, beginning chemotherapy.

'By the second day she had improved almost 100 per cent,' said her father. 'We were delighted. She started looking around and communicating with us.'

Plans were made to move the little girl to a normal ward, but at 4am on October 8 her parents were called to her bedside.

Mr Khan said: 'We were there in 20 minutes, but Naazish had died minutes before.

'Our world fell apart. We could not believe it because we had left her so well. They just kept repeating-that they didn't know why she had died.'

Four years earlier the couple's daughter Shabana died at the hospital from a rare illness, aged eight.

They have not yet decided whether to take legal action over the loss of Naazish.

Mr Khan, of Great Horton, Bradford, who has four other children, said: 'We just want to know what happened to our daughter, to see improvements in procedures at the hospital and to make sure it doesn't happen again to anybody else. Words cannot explain how much Naazish is missed.'

A spokesman for the trust said procedures for giving potassium had been changed. 'It is now administered under very strict guidelines,' he added.

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