Suspects in hospital blindness case absolved

After a trial lasting more than 12 months, two pharmacy technicians were acquitted of charges of negligence when six patients were left partially or totally blind after they were injected with a drug believed to be Avastin at the Santa Maria Hospital in Lisbon.

The case dates back to 2009 when pharmacist Hugo Dourado and Sónia Batista, a pharmacy technician, were accused of malpractice.

They were acquitted, however, because the judges said that it was not possible to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the medication was in fact Avastin or whether it had been somehow switched in the Santa Maria pharmacy and had never been categorically indentified, reported Público newspaper.

The court added that they did not exclude the possibility that the injected substance was in fact Avastin, which may have been contaminated before being injected into the patients.

Since each capsule of Avastin costs nearly €1,000, the hospital board had decided that if the whole content of the capsule was not used it could be stored in small syringes to be used later.

The judges also said there was a possibility that the Avastin was not correctly stored in refrigerated conditions.

As a result of the legal process, the six patients affected by the incident have received compensation and one who went completely blind received €246,000 in damages.