'Morphine killed Shipman patients'

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The Independent Online

Alleged victims of Dr Harold Shipman had taken or were administered amounts of morphine equivalent to an overdose, a forensic scientist testified yesterday.

Alleged victims of Dr Harold Shipman had taken or were administered amounts of morphine equivalent to an overdose, a forensic scientist testified yesterday.

Julie Evans, a toxicologist, told Preston Crown Court that tests revealed levels consistent with samples from people who had died of a morphine overdose.

Professor Henry McQuay, of Oxford University, who specialises in pain relief, said healthy people die within five minutes if 30 milligrams of morphine is injected into their veins. He said diamorphine was twice as strong as morphine and broke down into morphine. If the dose was 60 milligrams the timescale would be similar, but "it would be a more certain way of making sure the breathing stopped".

Nicola Davies QC, for the defence, said the effects of morphine could vary six-fold depending on whether it was injected or taken as tablets.

Mrs Evans said varying amounts of the drug were found in samples taken fromKathleen Grundy. Tests showed that Mrs Grundy, 81, had one microgram of morphine per gram of thigh muscle, and two areas of the liver showed the drug's presence. She said her findings were "entirely consistent" with levels seen in deaths attributed to excessive doses of morphine. Ssamples from eight other alleged victims also revealed morphine.

Dr Shipman, 53, of Mottram, Greater Manchester, denies killing 15 female patients and forging Mrs Grundy's £400,000 will. The trial continues.

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