Police quiz hospital over faked consent

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The Independent Online
A CRIMINAL investigation has been opened into allegations that parents of premature babies given an experimental treatment to help them breathe had their consent forms forged.

Staffordshire Police confirmed last night that it had begun interviewing parents involved in the research project carried out by Professor David Southall at North Staffordshire Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent. The research, which involved the use of a new type of ventilator, is already the subject of an independent inquiry ordered by ministers earlier this year.

Of 144 babies who had the new treatment 28 died and 15 were brain damaged. Although the death rate was higher than among a similar group of babies who had the conventional treatment, the difference was not statistically significant. However, concern has centred on the way the researchers obtained consent from the parents of the babies at a stressful time immediately after birth. Gloria Brown, 24, who lost two premature babies while having the treatment, said she had been interviewed by the police. "I told them it's my name on the consent form but not my signature. I never signed it." She added: "I am angry. I want justice, not just for me but for all the other mothers involved."

Staffordshire Police said its child protection unit was running the investigation. "We have launched an inquiry into allegedly falsified consent forms in response to complaints made to us," a spokesman. A statement would be issued today.

North Staffordshire Hospital is now the subject of four inquiries. As well as the independent inquiry ordered by ministers and the police investigation, the General Medical Council is conducting its own inquiry into parents' complaints that they were misled about the experimental nature of the treatment.

The hospital has also called in outside experts to investigate a separate complaint about harassment of parents accused of child abuse.