Heartbroken parents have accused NHS doctors of hiding evidence after their 11-month-old daughter was administered a fatal drug overdose. Sophie Burgess had received almost eight times the recommended dose of a potent anti-seizure drug, which proved deadly.

Her grieving parents, Gareth and Emma Burgess, suspect a cover-up of the hospital’s failings, alleging that that evidence then vanished from the side ward where Sophie died, along with pages of her medical notes. They have been fighting “tooth and nail” to uncover the truth.

“She must have been in so much pain”

Sophie had been rushed to A&E at St Peter’s Hospital in Surrey, following a seizure on 16 June last year. She was prescribed the anti-epileptic drug phenytoin by paediatric consultant Dr Fiona MacCarthy, and had the drug administered by Syrian-trained Dr Lojein Hatahet.

However, the administration ended up being a lethal overdose. “Sophie started to be sick. I tried to turn her over but I couldn’t because Dr Hatahet was standing over her and just carried on injecting her,” said Gareth, of the moment when Hatahet had injected his daughter.

Sophie Burgess pictured as a newborn with her parents Emma and Gareth Burgess. Photo credit: Daily Mail
Sophie Burgess pictured as a newborn with her parents Emma and Gareth Burgess. Photo credit: Daily Mail

“Sophie started to cough and splutter, her eyes were fluttering and she was going rigid. She looked like a rabbit in the headlights,” said the devastated father.

“That morning she had called me “Dada” for the first time. Now she was looking at me with this frightened expression. I will never forget it. She must have been in so much pain.”

Medics then tried for an hour, unsuccessfully, to resuscitate her. An initial post-mortem concluded the cause of death to be cardiac arrest, but the toxicology results, which arrived several weeks later, revealed the overdose.

Sophie had had 7.65 times the recommended dose of phenytoin in her blood.

“I strongly believe it’s a drug Sophie should never have had, and they gave her a massive amount,” said Emma.

A possible cover-up by the hospital

Just hours after Sophie’s death, the Burgesses were investigated by the police, who declared their home a crime scene. Forensic officers, too, took Sophie’s bedding and toys “in case they later became relevant”. The Burgesses are convinced that these are all part of a cover-up for failings at the hospital.

The Burgess’ barrister, Clodagh Bradley QC, have accused the doctors of the cover-up. “They are giving accounts that contradict medical records, they contradict witnesses and they have something to lose – criminal charges potentially being brought against them.”

She added that Dr MacCarthy had called the police after Sophie died. “Our concern is whether someone who knew they had made a serious error was trying to deflect attention from the medical management, which led to a loss of evidence.”

These allegations were made at a pre-inquest review, ahead of a full hearing in June. The doctors have declined to comment, while a spokesman said the hospital offered “sincere sympathies to Sophie Burgess’s family, alongside our apologies for her tragic death”. MIMS

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