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Doctor acquitted on penicillin death charge

28 November 2008

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A GP has been cleared of manslaughter after she was accused of killing an elderly patient by prescribing the wrong medication.

Dr Mirth Nikkhah faced charges of manslaughter by gross negligence over the death of 73-year-old David Townsend.

It was claimed the 41-year-old ignored Mr Townsend and his wife when they said he was allergic to penicillin during a consultation and prescribed the drug anyway.

He went into anaphylactic shock and died at his home in Plymouth, Devon, on May 2006 shortly after taking the medication.

Dr Nikkhah maintained the couple had not mentioned penicillin and when asked if Mr Townsend suffered any allergies the couple looked “confused”.

Dr Nikkhah, who now lives and works in Dubai, told the court that during the 13-minute consultation at the St Budeaux Health Centre she sometimes had to repeat questions as the couple could not hear very well.

She examined Mr Townsend and found he was suffering from a throat infection, bronchitis and a lower back abscess.

The “antibiotic of choice” to treat Mr Townsend was penicillin, she told the jury.

“It is my normal practice to ask if there is any allergy to medication, I did in this case,” she said.

The two-week trial heard Dr Nikkhah checked computer records which showed no warning about a penicillin allergy. The records also showed that Mr Townsend had been prescribed a number of types of penicillin in the past.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Plymouth Primary Care Trust