Gosport evidence: ‘It appeared to me euthanasia was practised by the nursing staff’

Auxiliary at Gosport War Memorial Hospital told police about events on the 'dead loss ward'

Nurse auxiliary at Gosport War Memorial Hospital told police about events on the 'dead loss ward'

A statement to police by a nursing auxillary about the deaths of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital reveals the emotional toll taken on staff.

Gosport review found more than 450 people's lives were cut short.
Picture: PA Images

Pauline Spilka, who worked at the hospital from 1995 to 1999, made the statement to Hampshire Police in 2001. This was published as part of the Gosport Independent Panel's report into the scandal.

More than 450 people have been found to have had their lives shortened by the over-prescription of opioids at the hospital, with a further 200 people also suspected to have been affected.

Indiscriminate syringe driver use

In her statement, Ms Spilka said indiscriminate use of syringe drivers shortened patients’ lives.

‘It appeared to me then, and more so now, that euthanasia was practised by the nursing staff,’ the statement reads. ‘The Daedalus Ward was known throughout the hospital as the dead loss ward’.

Ms Spilka goes on to say that the doctor authorised ‘appropriate’ use of syringe drivers on all patients on their admission to the ward. But Ms Spilka's report says it was nurses who carried out the treatment.

‘This enabled any member of the nursing staff to set up a syringe driver for a patient without any further reference to the doctor,’ she said.

‘My terrible guilt’

At the time of the statement, Ms Spilka said she remained ‘deeply upset’, with feelings of ‘terrible guilt’, particularly in relation to one death she witnessed.

She referred to the case of an 80-year-old man with stomach cancer who was a patient in 1997 or 1998. Ms Spilka described him as mentally alert, a man who loved snacks brought in by his friends and family, and who enjoyed having long conversations about football.

However, Ms Spilka recalled he was also ‘difficult’ to deal with. ‘He liked to think of himself as being more ill than the other patients and seemed to enjoy the attention this brought,’ she said.

This led to Ms Spilka and another colleague saying that if the patient was not careful he would ‘talk himself onto a syringe driver’.

Shock at seeing patient unconscious

She added: ‘One day I left work after my shift and he was his normal self. When I returned to work the following day I was shocked to find him on a syringe driver and unconscious’.

Ms Spilka recalled asking a nurse if they had informed the patient he would be ‘dead at the end of this’.

According to Ms Spilka the nurse was unable to answer her.

‘Knowing the patient as I did I am confident that he would not have allowed the introduction of a syringe driver – had he known the outcome,’ she said.

In its report, the panel ‘found nothing in any of the records, medical or otherwise, it has examined that would undermine Pauline Spilka’.

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