Morphine blunder: Pharmacy error sees baby given 10 times dosage

A Nowra mother has regained custody of her baby after it was revealed a pharmacy error led to her overdosing the infant on morphine while he was in her care.

The NSW Supreme Court heard the five-week infant, known as ‘Baby S’, was given 10 times the prescribed dosage provided on the morphine bottle. 

The label said to administer 0.5 millilitres instead of 0.05 millilitres.

The accidental overdose occurred on June 12, just hours after the baby had been returned to his mother’s care.

He had spent the previous week in foster care, having been removed from hospital y a Department of Family and Community Services case worker on June 6, concerned that ‘‘he was at immediate risk of serious harm’’.

Foster carers were required to give the then week-old baby morphine to minimise the risk of him suffering withdrawal symptoms from his mother's methadone treatment while he was unable to be breastfed.

The infant was returned to his mother on June 12 when a Nowra Children's Court rejected a FACS application to hand temporary parental responsibility for the baby over to the minister.

The magistrate ruled it was in the infant's "best interests" to bond with his mother during the first weeks of life, particularly when she had the support of the Waminda Women's Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation to help her care for the baby.

The following day, the baby suffered the accidental overdose and was hospitalised, prompting the woman to lose custody of him a second time.

That decision was overruled by Supreme Court Justice Richard White on June 26, when he decided the baby should stay in the mother's care.

"The circumstances in which the overdose occurred show no fault on the part of either the mother or Waminda," Justice White said.

"The response of the mother the following day could not be faulted. She observed the baby being drowsy and contacted Waminda. The child was then taken to the doctor and admitted to hospital.

"I accept, as the learned magistrate accepted on 12 June, that the best interests of the child lie with the child remaining in the mother's care."

As a condition of the order, the mother is required to co-operate with FACS and Waminda staff, allow FACS officers to inspect her premises and child at times, and participate in random drug tests.

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