Nurse who let drugged wife die struck off

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014

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A man who effectively killed his wife by doing little to help her after she drank a lethal dose of methadone is no longer allowed to practise as a nurse.

A Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal held in Hamilton yesterday found Ian Hamer had acted in an unacceptable manner and his registration was cancelled.

As well as his nursing registration being cancelled with immediate effect, Hamer was censured by the tribunal and ordered to pay costs of $5590.

The 58-year-old, who did not attend yesterday's hearing, was convicted in 2003 for the manslaughter of his wife, Hasnah Hamer, by failing to provide the necessaries of life. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail, with a minimum non-parole period of five years.

It was on the night of February 8, 2002, that the events which led to the death of Mrs Hamer - a Malaysian citizen whose immigration status depended on her marriage to Hamer - took place.

The couple, who lived in Tauranga at the time, were arguing after Mrs Hamer revealed to her husband that when they married in September 2001 she was married to another man who was still living in Malaysia.

In 2002, Hamer was on a methadone programme to combat his addiction to opium.

About 1am on February 9, Mrs Hamer drank between 100 and 150 milligrams of methadone.

Hamer argued during his trial in the High Court in Rotorua that she had done so voluntarily as a way of proving her love for him.

Hamer called an ambulance for his wife about 6.30pm that day - 17 hours after she had consumed the methadone.

When the ambulance officer arrived he found Mrs Hamer cold and deeply unconscious.

She was at that stage propped up by pillows which Mr Hamer had placed behind her head, causing her airways to become partially blocked.

Hamer had worked in the intensive care unit at Hastings Hospital in the 1980s, where he dealt with drug overdoses, and would have known that Mrs Hamer would have been gravely ill.

During his trial he told the court he had told her to vomit up the methadone and believed she had.

He was going to keep her under surveillance but had fallen asleep until 1pm.

Mrs Hamer spent about three weeks in hospital, initially in Tauranga and then in Hamilton.

She discharged herself on March 1 and resumed living with Hamer, however she was readmitted to hospital on March 4.

Her condition continued to deteriorate and she was flown to Kuala Lumpur to be with her family on May 14. She died in hospital on June 1.

At yesterday's hearing Nursing Council of New Zealand lawyer Helen de Montalk said the matters that led to the convictions reflected adversely on Hamer's fitness to practise as a nurse.

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"Mr Hamer's conduct falls well below that expected of a nurse and those failures are significant enough to warrant disciplinary action," she said. "His conduct must be regarded as totally unacceptable behaviour for any registered nurse . . . [it] cannot reasonably be considered to enhance the reputation of the nursing profession. It impacts on the public's confidence in the profession and, inevitably, the reputation of the profession in the public's eyes."

With neither Hamer nor his lawyer, David Allen, in attendance, the hearing at the Ibis Tainui was over less than two hours after it began. The five-person tribunal panel led by Maria Dew took less than half an hour in their deliberations.

Hamer appealed his conviction and sentence in 2004, however the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal which rejected criticisms of the trial judge's direction to the jury, all grounds of the appeal against conviction, and that a non-parole period should not have applied.

- Waikato Times

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