Irish News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Parents may sue chemist who gave child overdose

Allison Bray

Published 17/05/2013|04:24

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Pharmacist Marta Gomez Valcarcel
Pharmacist Marta Gomez Valcarcel

THE parents of a severely disabled girl who was dispensed an overdose of an anti-epileptic drug may sue the pharmacy and the pharmacist in question.

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A disciplinary committee has found the pharmacist guilty of professional misconduct and poor professional performance.

The parents of the seven-year-old girl from Co Dublin have said they are still seeking answers, despite the findings of the professional conduct committee of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI).

The five-member panel of the committee yesterday found the pharmacist guilty of one count of professional misconduct and seven counts of poor professional performance.

She had, on two occasions in July and August 2011, dispensed five times the prescribed dosage of the anti-seizure drug Keppra to the girl, who was aged five at the time.

The committee will recommend that Marta Gomez Valcarcel, who was employed as a supervising pharmacist at Pelly's Pharmacy on Fassaugh Avenue in Cabra, Dublin 7, be formally censured by the PSI council.

It will also recommend that her continued registration as a pharmacist in Ireland be contingent on her not practising as a supervising pharmacist or superintendent for a year and that she complete further training as recommended by the council.

However the girl's parents said they were still not satisfied following the two-day inquiry and were seeking legal advice over a possible civil lawsuit.

"How can we be happy about it?" the father asked the Irish Independent at the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing in Dublin yesterday. "She made an error twice."

The inquiry heard that the child – who cannot speak and has physical and mental disabilities, as well as suffering from epilepsy – did not suffer any ill effects from the accidental overdose.

However, the girl's mother said it remained to be seen if she suffered from the error or would do so in the future.

Epilepsy

"She had side-effects like mood swings and tiredness (when taking the wrongly prescribed dosage). There was harm," she said.

Ms Gomez Valcarcel had earlier told the inquiry that she "got very upset" and was "in a state of shock" when a nurse from a respite care home rang her to ask her about the dosage of the drug and she then realised: "I had made the error."

She admitted to the inquiry that she had mistakenly "presumed" that the normal dosage of the drug for children was 5ml spoonfuls.

In fact, the prescribed dosage was 1ml, although she noted: "Most medicines for children come at 5ml."

Ms Gomez Valcarcel dispensed the first script on July 22, 2011 and the second on August 11, 2011.

She admitted that she simply "copied and printed the label from the first prescription" when the parents went to collect a repeat prescription three weeks later.

However she said she was under extreme pressure because the pharmacy – where she had worked for the previous six years without incident – was very busy and she didn't believe it was adequately staffed.

Ms Gomez Valcarcel added that she had since left the pharmacy and had not been able to get another job since then.

Her barrister, Francis Kieran, told the inquiry: "She has made a mistake. But she has already paid the price and will continue to pay a price."

However, the girl's father said that being under pressure due to staffing issues "is no excuse" for the error.

Irish Independent

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