AN intensive care nurse who injected her best friend’s four-month-old baby daughter with a massive dose of insulin at Cardona, near Innerleithen, was this week struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Veronica Duncan, now 46, committed the offence – reduced from attempted murder to serious assault – in 2007 and was placed on three years’ probation at the High Court in Edinburgh. As part of her probation conditions, she underwent psychiatric treatment and was banned from unsupervised contact with children under seven.
The professional nursing body, however, decided in 2009 not to strike Duncan off, choosing instead to suspend her from nursing for a year, a ban extended by another 12 months last May.
But in February 2011, at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Duncan, now living in Tranent, East Lothian, admitted fraudulently claiming £8,823 in housing benefit and was given 100 hours of community service.
Facing another NMC disciplinary hearing in the capital on Monday, Duncan wrote to say she could not attend as she was currently on holiday.
In her absence, NMC solictor Barry Dooley said Duncan had been involved in “a lengthy period of serious dishonesty” in claiming benefits to which she was not entitled because she was working.
“Although her previous [High Court] conviction is of a different sort, this is a dishonesty conviction which shows there is a pattern of criminal conduct. The incident which arose in 2007 was an extremely serious one,” said Mr Dooley.
“Nurses have a privileged position in society and the seriousness of her dishonesty is great. The public need to be able to maintain confidence in the profession. This registrant [Duncan] has not demonstrated honesty or integrity in any way whatsover and these two characteristics are fundamental in a registered nurse.”
Reading the NMC decision to srike Duncan off, Andrew Popplewell, chairman of the hearing committee, observed: “The registrant [Duncan] has demonstrated no remorse for her actions and shown no insight into her actions. She has a previous conviction and has not demonstrated previous good behaviour.
“Her behaviour demonstrated a serious departure from the relevant standard of the code...you must be open and honest and act with integrity. You must adhere to the law of the country in which you practise.
“The panel has decided the only appropriate action would be to strike her off.”
The 2007 trial heard that Duncan’s own 16-month-old daughter Anna had died in her Cardona home a week after contracting chickenpox.
On March 7, the following year, Duncan had called at her friend’s house nearby and had invited the mother to go to a coffee morning. Duncan offered to dress the baby while the mother got changed and it was then that the insulin, which Duncan had carried in her bag for that purpose, was repeatedly injected into the baby’s stomach.
The court heard that Duncan was overwhelmed with jealousy because her friend had a healthy child. Her defence lawyer contended his client suffering from a mental disorder which fell short of a mental illness.
The tiny victim was later rushed to the Borders General Hospital, a doctor at the trial estimating she was three minutes from death when life-saving dextrose was administered. During this treatment, Duncan sat in a waiting room of the hospital.
The mother of the victim, who is now a healthy five-year old, was at Monday’s disciplinary hearing after which she told reporters: “The NMC made the right decision today and I am very happy. The last time I saw her [Duncan] it was through a pane of glass at the High Scourt. I cannot believe she hasn’t shown again. I don’t even know what I would say if I saw her today.
“There are hundreds of people who have lost a child, but you wouldn’t dream of hurting another child. I understand that it was horrendous for her: the loss of a child is incomprehensible and I was very close to that.”
Recalling what had happened to her daughter, the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, added: “My baby was unstable for 48 hours and these were the worst hours of my life. She was three years old before she was given the all clear. She is a lovely wee girl now, so happy.”