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OAP’s death “not doctor’s fault”

A pensioner died from heart failure caused by existing cardiac disease rather than from an allergic reaction to penicillin prescribed by a doctor, a court has heard.

David Townsend, 73, from Plymouth, died at home in May 2006. The prosecution contests that this was a result of Mr Townsend suffering anaphylactic shock after taking penicillin prescribed by Dr Mitra Nikkhah.

But Professor Kevin Channer has told Plymouth Crown Court: “I think this was a primary cardiac death.”

Professor Channer, an NHS consultant cardiologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, was giving evidence for the defence in the trial of Dr Nikkhah.

The 41-year-old, who now lives and works in Dubai, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.

The prosecution claimed that both Mr Townsend and his wife Joan had told Nikkhah he was allergic to penicillin.

But the defendant, working as a locum at St Budeaux Health Centre in Plymouth at the time, told the police she did not remember this.

Mrs Townsend told the court that after her husband took the medication he became swollen “like a Michelin man” with his head three times the size.

Professor Channer said someone suffering a cardiac problem or failure could suffer swelling, particularly in a man of Mr Townsend’s history.

When asked: “Did he die from anyaphylatic reaction which precipitated cardiac arrest, in your view?”, Professor Channer answered: “It is possible he did. But I do not believe it is very likely.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

Royal Hallamshire Hospital