GP on trial defends use of morphine

A DOCTOR accused of surfing the internet while he prescribed a fatal dose of a potent form of morphine to two elderly patients has told a court it was appropriate medication.

General practitioner Rejendra Kokkarne is accused of watching sport on the internet and using his office computer for personal internet banking while prescribing 10 times the normal dose of morphine sulphate to Beryl Barber, 78, and Eric Watson, 86.

But taking the stand at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Kokkarne said he prescribed morphine as other pain medications were unsuitable.

He said a nurse at the Charlton Centre, Batley Field Hill, where the two patients were residents, said the patients were in severe pain and unable to take medication orally due to their poor health.

He said: “I had to decide on a painkiller that would be appropriate for pain relief as well as ease of administration,” he said.

Mrs Barber had painful ulcers on her foot and elsewhere, and Mr Watson had a urinary tract infection and mouth ulcers, the court heard.

Both died of morphine poisoning. The court heard that the wrong type of morphine was prescribed by Kokkarne, who said he was “shocked and appalled” when he realised his error.

He said: “I have had to live with that, I’ll have to live with the thought that something I wanted to do good for somebody has led to somebody’s death and that’s a very hard thing to take.”

The court also heard details of Kokkarne’s computer use at the Victoria Centre in Dewsbury, where he worked.

Records from February 1, 2008, the day he prescribed the fatal doses, showed him following the score of a cricket match and checking a his personal email account.

Kokkarne said his internet use that day, in retrospect, was “embarrassing” but defended his use of the internet between patients.

He said browsing the web for a few minutes helped to refresh his mind ahead of his next patient, describing the surfing as a “minibreak”.

He denied that going online would have distracted him or interfered with his work.

Under cross-examination by Robert Smith QC, Kokkarne admitted he had committed an error in failing to obtain a proper history of the patients.

But when asked if he wasn’t paying attention, he said: “It is absolutely wrong to say I was not paying attention on that day.”

Kokkarne, 37, of Fulmar Way in Worksop, denies manslaughter by gross negligence of Mrs Barker on February 3, 2008, and Mr Watson on February 4 that year.

The trial continues.