During a lab test at Northumbria University last March, sports science students were supposed to receive around 300mg of caffeine. Due to a misplaced decimal point, prosecutors say two of them were given 30,000mg — equal to 300 cups of coffee or almost twice the generally recognised lethal dose — instead. And now the university is so, so sorry.
On Wednesday, the school told a British court that it was “deeply, genuinely sorry” over the incident that put two sophomores on dialysis and in intensive care for days. Despite its heartfelt remorse, the university was fined £400,000 ($667,391) for the miscalculation reportedly made on a mobile phone. From the Sunderland Echo:
The court heard the lecturer, who had spoken about the dangers of caffeine overdose during an earlier class that morning had allowed students to work with technicians to calculate how much caffeine each volunteer should take, according to body mass.
The students’ heights and weights were taken correctly but the court heard it was during calculations of how much caffeine should be taken per body mass kilo that a mistake with the mathematics was made, due to a decimal point being put in the wrong place.
[Prosecutor Adam] Farrer added: “The prosecution say the result of the overdoses to both students could easily have been fatal.”
In the end, the university students suffered “violent” side effects including blurred vision, shaking and massive weight loss, but otherwise made full recoveries. One must imagine, however, they won’t be able to enjoy a hot cup of java again any time soon.