A Perth doctor involved in a radical cancer treatment that accelerated the deaths of four patients gave an aged-care patient a potentially lethal dose of morphine without considering the 87-year-old's history or full clinical picture, an inquest has found.
The inquest into the 2010 death of Evelyn Taylor found Alexandra Boyd could offer no explanation for her actions except to imply she had made a misjudgment because she had been overworked and put herself under pressure by running a locum practice on top of other work.
Ms Boyd was called to St Ives village in Murdoch on November 26, 2010, as a locum doctor to treat Mrs Taylor, a dementia sufferer, after she became unwell and a nurse was notified her skin looked blue and she was unresponsive. She was given oxygen and her condition improved.
Ms Boyd examined Mrs Taylor and concluded she was having a heart attack and gave her at least 20mg of morphine - later found to have been more than 18 months past its expiry date.
Her condition deteriorated and she was rushed to Fremantle Hospital where she was given a drug to counteract the morphine. She was treated palliatively until she died on December 2.
Mrs Taylor's cause of death was found to be heart failure and probable pneumonia complicated by morphine toxicity, according to findings from the inquest handed down last month and obtained by _The West Australian _ last week.
Coroner Barry King said he was unable to "quantify the role ultimately played by the morphine" and he made an open finding on Mrs Taylor's death.
Mr King said there was no doubt the dose of morphine Mrs Taylor was given was "inappropriately high" and evidence from clinical pharmacologist and toxicologist Professor David Joyce made it clear the dosage caused Mrs Taylor serious toxicity and exposed her "to a serious risk of lethality".
Ms Boyd made headlines in September last year at an inquest into the deaths of five cancer patients who died after radical treatment at her Mosman Park home.
In her findings, Coroner Evelyn Vicker said the treatment hastened the deaths of four patients, who had paid up to $40,000 in the hope of beating their terminal cancers.