Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
A nurse who was drunk and probably also high when she removed a patient’s breathing tube for cleaning and failed to reconnect it has been given five years in prison for manslaughter.
Bed-bound Karin A., 65, was chronically ill and required mechanical ventilation via a breathing tube at her home in Saarbruecken, Germany.
Intensive care nurse Barbara H., 54, cared for her at her home.
On the day of the crime – date not reported – she removed the patient’s tube to remove the mucus that had accumulated in it but failed to reconnect it.
This caused an alarm to go off and the patient to call for help via a speech-generating device. However, the nurse failed to react.
It was only after 14 minutes that the patient’s husband noticed and reconnected the tube.
But after failing to receive enough oxygen for such a long time, the patient fell into a coma. As per her will, her life support was switched off after nine days.
It transpired that H. was heavily drunk at the time, with a blood-alcohol content of over 2.3.
The German-health-ministry-run website drugcom.de, which advises on the risks of drugs and alcohol, lists the symptoms of such a high blood-alcohol content as “severe balance and concentration problems”, “memory and consciousness impairments”, “hardly any ability to react”, “muscle relaxation”, “confusion” and “vomiting”.
It is believed the nurse had also smoked cannabis.
At the hearing at the Saarbruecken District Court yesterday (Monday, 9th May), Judge Andreas Lauer told the defendant: “You knew that certain death was imminent.”
H. did not show any emotion as the guilty verdict was delivered. Nevertheless, she managed to say “I’m very, very sorry” towards the end of the hearing.
Judge Lauer added: “You didn’t intervene – for whatever reason.”
H. claimed she could not remember what happened at the time, possibly as a result of her intoxication.
Based on the defendant’s previous convictions for crimes including theft, she was given five years and three months in prison.