Special Reports

Students Left Fighting For Lives After Caffeine Overdose In Class Experiment


Two university students who volunteered for an experiment were left fighting for their lives after ingesting more than the required amount of a common stimulant, news reports say. Alex Rosetto and Luke Parkin, students at Northumbria University, volunteered to take part in a classroom experiment involving caffeine, a common stimulant found in everyday beverages such as coffee, Chronicle Live reported. Instead of receiving the actual dose assigned for them, they both received an amount 100 times more than what was originally planned.

Rosetto and Parkin, both 20 years old when the incident happened in March 2, 2015, were supposed to ingest 0.3g of caffeine, mixed with orange juice, in order to test its effects during exercise. However, because of a fatal error in calculation which involved using decimal points, two of them ended up taking 30g of caffeine.

For reference, the average cup of coffee contains only 0.1g of the stimulant. They took an equivalent of 300 cups of coffee.

Nobody bothered to check if the calculation regarding the amount of caffeine was correct, prosecutor Adam Farrer said, noting that the amount of caffeine powder was obviously "significant." No one checked if the calculation was correct, even after a doctor warned of the dangers of excessive caffeine intake earlier that day.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the doctor even mentioned three incidents related to caffeine overdose, albeit in different locations, the Telegraph reported.

As it turns out, the test was proper, but the calculation was wrong. The calculation was made using a phone, with the decimal point placed in the wrong spot. Judge Edward Bindloss said a risk assessment should have been carried out, especially because the risk in the test "was death."

The two students immediately felt the effects of the overdose quickly after ingesting it: dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, shaking, and rapid heart beat. The two of them required quick medical attention and were rushed to the hospital. They ended up in intensive care and needed dialysis.

Farrer said both of them could have died from the overdose if they weren't rushed to the hospital and given medical care. Both of them were in a "potentially life-threatening condition," a doctor told Farrer.

Both of them lost weight, with Rosetto losing 12kg and Parkin losing 10kg. Rosetto also suffered from short-term memory loss.

Northumbria University was fined £400,000 (about US$505,246) plus £26,000 (about US$32,840) in costs after admitting a health and safety breach.

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