Noble’s Hospital’s pathology department has apologised after flawed tests indicated a retired barrister who died in his Peel home had fatally high levels of an antidepressant in his system.
The apology was made at the inquest into Andrew Sharpe’s death.
Coroner of inquests Jayne Hughes heard the 63-year-old was found unconscious at the bottom of the stairs of his home in Ballawattleworth on November 24, 2012, by his wife of 40 years, Sybil.
Attempts to resuscitate him, by a neighbour and then a paramedic, were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tests by the pathology department showed Mr Sharpe had a fatally high level of the prescribed drug amitriptyline.
Doubt was cast on the accuracy of the results when tests in another case also seemed to show an unusually high level of the same kind of drug.
James Cooper, a senior biomedical scientist in the pathology department, said it was discovered the test they carried out should in fact only be used to determine the presence of such a drug, not the quantity of it.
Further tests were then carried out at a laboratory in Sheffield which found Mr Sharpe had only a ‘therapeutic level’ of the drug.
Mr Cooper said: ‘I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Mr Sharpe’s family on behalf of the pathology department for the distress and delays caused by an error within our department. I sincerely apologise for that error.’
He confirmed the test ‘is used now for the purpose it was intended as a qualitative measure only’.
And he said no other cases, other than Mr Sharpe and the later one, were affected.
A letter was read out from advocate Judy Thornley on behalf of Mrs Sharpe.
It said: ‘It’s unacceptable that such a fundamental error occurred and it raises questions regarding competence.’
She said it was also unacceptable that Mrs Sharpe had not been told about the re-testing and the corrected results until July.
A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
Mrs Hughes said: ‘I’m satisfied the problem has now been recognised and addressed and a similar situation won’t happen again in future.
‘I hope it will offer some comfort to Mrs Sharpe.’