Welfare board to investigate baby’s death

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) is to open its own investigation into the death of a newborn baby at Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital in Solna.

Meanwhile senior physicians have condemned the arrest of a paediatrician at the hospital on suspicion of manslaughter and warn of the potential damage to child healthcare in Sweden.

The doctor is suspected of euthanasia by injecting the then three-month-old baby with deadly doses of morphine and a tranquillizer before turning off the respirator keeping the brain-damaged baby alive.

“I don’t want to speculate on the motive. But it’s possible that this is a case of a mercy killing,” prosecutor Elisabeth Brandt told Sveriges Radio on Friday.

Although euthanasia is illegal in Sweden it is unusual that legal procedures against doctors occur, cases of malpractice usually go before the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The board has now announced that it will look into the case and has requested all documents associated with the case from the department at the hospital where the doctor works.

The board’s director-general Lars-Erik Holm and the chairperson of the doctor’s union, Läkareförbundet, Eva Nilsson Bågenholm, have expressed surprise that the case has been passed on to the justice system.

“I am surprise that this has gone over the heads of the health and welfare board,” Holm said to news agency TT on Friday.

Bågenholm argued that only the health and welfare board had the scope to decide such cases.

Suspicions against the doctor are primarily based on an autopsy conducted after the baby’s death in September 2008.

There is nothing strange about administering an excessively high dose of morphine when a respirator is to be turned off, Lars-Erik Holm argued.

Stefan Enqvist, a senior physician at Karolinska University Hospital, agrees. Engvist points out that the baby’s life could not be saved and a decision had been taken, in concert with the baby’s parents, to terminate life support.

“In this instance medicine is administered to make death as comfortable as possible. That was what has occurred here,” Enqvist told TT.

Sometimes the doses are very high, according to Enqvist, who has studied the medical journals without finding anything of note.

The case has been met with controversy in Sweden.

In a full page opinion article in Dagens Nyheter on Saturday, leading paediatrician at Astrid Lingren’s Children Hospital, Hugo Lagercrantz, has accused the prosecutor, Elisabeth Brandt, of “seriously damaging” child healthcare in Sweden.

Lagercrantz argues that the case will force doctors to continue to treat patients with no hope of recovery and underlines the lack of clear guidelines in the area.

“We are therefore faced with a a future of congested hospital departments and an increasing number of relatives who drag doctors before the courts and prosecutors who serve remand notices,” Lagercrantz writes.

The doctor will now be held in a detention centre while prosecutors continue to interview witnesses as a part of the investigation.

If prosecutors decide to bring formal charges, they are to be filed by 11am on March 13th, at which time the doctor’s detention will be reviewed.


Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.