The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas Et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, JULY 16, 1890. THE WELLINGTON POISONING CASE.
The recent poisoning case in Wellington affords some food for reflection. A married woman named Mrs Bennett was taken ill, and obtained a prescription of morphia from a local chemist. The prescription j instead of curing the woman, absolutely killed her. The chemist entrusted with the preparation of the mixture egregiously blundered, and supplied strychnine! as well as morphia. The husband of the woman, naturally enough, insisted upon an investigation being held, and now a Coroner's jury has returned a verdict of "accidental death," and aquits everyone of blame. The chemist from whose shop the prescription was obtained shifted the responsibility of the blunder on to the shoulders of his assistant, and the latter professed entire forgetfulness of all the circumstances. There is not the slightest doubt that, Mrs Bennett died from poison, and the evidence was conclusive that strychnine was present in the morphia prescription. Yet the Coroner's jury has acquitted everyone from blame. Now we think that someone was very seriously to blame for causing | the death of this invalid—and that someone is the stupid or careless fellow who made up the deadly mixture. A blunder of this kind is inexcusable, and although a charge of manslaughter may not legally lie against the blunderer,yet he is morally responsible for the death of a fellow-creature, and his act of carelessness is deserving of the gravest censure. The jury, however, thought otherwise, and not content with relieving the offender from the legal responsibility of his 3ct have endeavored to condone the offence. In this we think they failed in their duty. Nowhere else in business life should greater care or caution be exercised than in the Wholesale or retail chemists' establishment. A blunder of the chemist, as in the Wellington case, may result in the death or untold suffering of his customer, and when such mistakes are brought to light the severest censure should be meted out. There may have been extenuating circumstances in the Wellington case with which we are not familiar, but the telegrams sent South do not bear this out. To the public mind, in view of the telegraphic evidence supplied from Wellington, it would appear that anyone may be poisoned with impunity by a chemist, while anyone else causing death or injury, either through carelessness or inexperience, will meet with prompt punishment. There would, therefore, appear to exist a grave need that master chemists should be held directly responsible, not only for their own acts, but also for those of their employe's. Sir George Grey has at present a measure before the House, the object of which is to minimise accidents of the Wellington character, by causing medical men to write out their prescriptions in English instead of dog latin, .and it.is. to be hoped he will go a step further, and provide that youths entering upon the- chemist profession shall go through a systematic training before being per-1 mitted to prepare prescriptions. We fear that chemists, in too many eases, permit inexperienced youths to prepare prescriptions, and that proper supervision is not exercised in the handling of poisons.