Northumbria University has been fined £400,000 after staff miscalculated an experiment, resulting in two students being rushed to intensive care. Alex Rossetta and Luke Parkin, both science students, were put on dialysis after being given 30g of caffeine, 100 times more than the dose they were supposed to be given.
The students had volunteered to take part in the experiment, which was designed to measure the effect of caffeine on exercise.
The court heard that staff were meant to give 0.3g of caffeine but, when calculating measurements on their mobile phones, a staff member put the decimal point in the wrong place resulting in catastrophic error.
Adam Farrar, the prosecutor in the case, said: “the staff were not experienced or competent enough”. He stated that they hadn’t even taken out a risk assessment, which is a procedure that should be carried out alongside any experiment to ensure safety.
The severity of this case is shown in reported figures, which show how people have died after consuming 18g of caffeine, 12g less than what the two students consumed. Luckily both students have fully recovered and the University have apologised stating they are “deeply, genuinely sorry” for what happened. The University wished to “emphasise that they take the welfare of their students and staff seriously”.