Nurses charged in death at Sick Kids hospital

Two Toronto nurses charged with criminal negligence causing 10-year-old patient's death in 1998.

Two nurses have been charged with the death of a girl being treated for lingering complications from a broken leg at the Hospital for Sick Children three years ago.

The nurses are accused of failing to monitor the morphine drip given to Lisa Shore, 10, in October 1998.

Ruth Doerksen, 41, and Anagaile Soriano, 25, were charged Thursday with criminal negligence causing death. They are scheduled to appear in court Nov. 22.

Last year, a coroner's inquest ruled that Shore's death was a homicide. But the jury's verdict was only a finding a fact and not part of any criminal proceeding.

Lisa Shore died one day after being given an intravenous pain killer for a condition not considered life threatening. After breaking her leg while playing at school in April 1998, she developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome a rare disorder that can cause a severe burning sensation.

A doctor told nurses to give the youngster morphine and then check her vital signs every hour, according to testimony at the inquest. She was also supposed to be put on a special monitor that measures heart and breathing rates.

Shore died after being transferred to another hospital room. The nursing staff was accused of not checking a computer that detailed the doctor's orders.

At the time, the Hospital for Sick Children agreed mistakes were made. But management considered the death accidental because there was no evidence that the "human errors" were intentional.

On Thursday the hospital issued a news release saying it is "deeply saddened" that charges have been laid. "No one has ever managed to eliminate all human error," the statement noted. "It is for this reason that our changes have focused on better systems to improve the quality of care and reduce the likelihood of error."

Last fall, the hospital admitted that another girl's death was preventable but denied there was any pattern to the tragedies.

The Ontario Nurses' Association issued a news release Thursday, saying that its members are upset about the arrests.

"Unfortunately, (nurses) leave work every day in fear that they cannot provide safe care because of serious understaffing and working conditions," wrote Lesley Bell, head of the union. "Now they have to worry that they may be criminally charged if something goes terribly wrong on their shifts."

But the Shore family's lawyer, Frank Gomberg, said the case is about alleged mistakes made by hospital staff, not about medicare funding.