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Doctor charged over baby's death

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Doctor charged over baby's death
14:15 CET+01:00
The paediatrician suspected of the alleged mercy killing of a baby at Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital in Stockholm in September 2008 has been charged with manslaughter.

The doctor is suspected of having deliberately administered a high dose of the anaesthetic Pentothal in combination with morphine in order to speed up the baby's death.

The prosecutor, Peter Claeson, explained in a press release on Monday that he expects to secure a conviction in court and that the prosecution's case is based on forensic reports and witness testimony from those present at the time of the baby's death on September 20th 2008.

"The evidence is strong," Claeson said to news agency TT, arguing that the doctor and no one else is responsible for the baby's death.

The three-month-old baby was terminally ill with serious brain damage after having been born 15 weeks premature. The birth was complicated and the baby was born unconscious due to a lack of oxygen.

The baby girl's condition worsened when a nurse administered an overdose of saline solution at birth.

A subsequent ultrasound revealed that the newborn had suffered from cerebral haemorrhaging on both sides of her brain.

The case has generated a heated debate in Sweden.

Medical colleagues and the unions have roundly criticized the police and prosecutors for their handling of the case following the public arrest of the doctor at her place of work in March 2009.

The doctor was subsequently released from custody after a successful appeal from her lawyer, Björn Hurtig, and denies any wrongdoing. She has been suspended from her position at the hospital throughout the course of the investigation.

A report from Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) published in October 2009 cleared the doctor of any wrongdoing in connection with the baby's death.

"We've reviewed all available documentation and spoken with healthcare workers and the information we've collected is in order. We can't see that there were any shortcomings in the care and handling of the little girl," Staffan Blom, head regional supervisor at the board, said at the time.

The board did however confirm the findings from an autopsy conducted on the baby which found abnormally high levels of both Pentothal and morphine in the child's blood.

Staffan Blom confirmed that the board could not explain the existence of the anaesthetic as its use was not mentioned anywhere in the medical records.

Manslaughter carries a penalty of between six and ten years in prison in Sweden.

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