Mystery of poisoned babies deepens after German probe blunder
Frankfurt am Main: Fresh questions emerged Tuesday in the mysterious case of five newborn babies who were drugged with morphine at a German hospital, after police said they made “a mistake” when they arrested a nurse on suspicion of attempted manslaughter.
The five babies, aged between one day and five weeks at the time, all survived the attempted poisoning on December 20 and are not expected to suffer lasting harm.
The nurse was detained on Wednesday after investigators searching her locker at Ulm University Hospital discovered a feeding syringe containing breast milk and traces of what initial testing determined was morphine.
But Ulm prosecutor Christof Lehr told reporters that the first test was now known to be wrong, after further analysis showed the syringe did not contain morphine after all.
The woman was released from custody on Sunday, with an apology from the prosecutor.
The decision to act based on the preliminary test result, which had not been checked against a control sample, “was in hindsight a mistake”, said Ralf Michelfelder, head of the state police of Baden-Wuerttemberg, at a press conference.
The error became clear after the mother whose breast milk was in the syringe volunteered to give a control sample, which also inexplicably tested positive for the heavy painkiller.
The lab in Baden-Wuerttemberg carrying out the analysis then discovered it was their own solvent used in the tests that had been contaminated with a tiny amount of morphine.
Follow-up tests by a lab in the neighbouring state of Bavaria confirmed that neither the syringe nor the control sample contained any morphine.
“I’m very sorry for the woman in question,” Lehr said. But given the urgent need to keep infants at the hospital safe, he said he had had to make a quick decision. – AFP