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Patient, Guy's Hospital (Death)

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

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25.

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the case of Jean Reid, Bethnal Green, who died immediately following an injection of vaccine while being treated for asthma in Guy's Hospital recently, and upon who no inquest was held; and what has been the result of the inquiry conducted into the use of this vaccine throughout the country.

As the statement is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is it not a fact that this young girl died within a few minutes of the injection of this vaccine? If so, in view of the unusual circumstances, why was no inquest held? When the Minister has made his inquiries, will he publish a report? Can he say what is the nature of this vaccine, how it is produced, what is consists of and how it is administered?

I deal with all those matters in my statement. It is true that the girl died within half an hour of the injection, but the death was reported at once to the coroner. The coroner, who has to decide whether there should be an inquest, referred the matter to the Home Office pathologist and was satisfied as a result of that inquiry and the pathologist's report that no inquest was necessary. The vaccine comes from the Wright Fleming Institute, attached to St. Mary's Hospital. Although there is no particular reason to suspect it, we have called in all the batches applicable to that period and are investigating them as quickly as we can.

Following is the statement:

Jean Reid had been attending the asthma clinic at Guy's Hospital since September, 1953, when aged 18 years. On 25th May, the date of her death, she attended for the last of a series of desensitisation injections with gradually increasing doses of vaccine which had begun on 7th January, 1954. The injection was given in the normal manner and she waited afterwards in the department, since patients frequently have reactions from these injections and are always kept in the clinic for half an hour after treatment. The injection was given at 2.15 p.m.; about 10 minutes later she complained to the nurse of feeling ill, and a doctor was called. Despite every effort to revive her, her condition deteriorated and she died about 2.45 p.m.

Of 21 patients attending the clinic four, apart from Jean Reid, had reactions and in view of her death were retained longer than normal for observation as a precautionary measure. All four patients were seen at about 5 p.m. by a senior consultant physician and were found to be quite well. They were discharged on the following morning.

The coroner was notified of the death, interviewed the medical officers concerned, and arranged for a post mortem examination to be carried out by a Home Office pathologist. I understand that the coroner as the result of his inquiries decided not to hold an inquest.

No inquiry has been conducted into the use of this vaccine throughout the country, and there is no evidence that points to the vaccine being at fault. As a precaution, other vials of the same batch have been recalled by the distributors and tests are being undertaken of the batch of vaccine actually used at Guy's Hospital. Up to the present, however, no significant result has been obtained.