MDU statement on Dr Bawa-Garba case

Responding to today's Court of Appeal judgement in the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, said:

'This is a tragic case which has understandably had a devastating impact on all involved. We recognise the strength of feeling invoked among our members and the wider profession.

'Dr Bawa-Garba was a member of another medical defence organisation and we did not represent her. However this is an important and welcome judgement for doctors who fear that if a patient dies unexpectedly they will be singled out for blame and could be investigated by the police for gross negligence manslaughter, as well as by the GMC and others.

Paragraph 93 of the judgement is worth reading in full:

'The Tribunal was an expert body entitled to reach all those conclusions. Indeed, none of them have been challenged by the GMC. The Tribunal was entitled to take into account, consistently with Bijl v General Medical Council [2001] UKPC 42, [2002] Lloyd's Rep Med 60 at [13], that an important factor weighing in favour of Dr Bawa-Garba is that she is a competent and useful doctor, who presents no material danger to the public, and can provide considerable useful future service to society.'

'This underlines the fact that each case should be looked at individually. In cases where a doctor is convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, or any other crime, there should not be an automatic presumption by the GMC that they are unfit to practise and must be erased from the register.

'Unfortunately, there are still too many doctors being investigated for gross negligence manslaughter. We have advocated to policy-makers that those who refer and investigate doctors for this crime should better understand the threshold for gross negligence manslaughter. Rather than focusing automatically on individuals, they must also take into account the difficult circumstances under which doctors often have to practise medicine. As Counsel for Dr Bawa-Garba said during the appeal hearing:

'The ordinary intelligent citizen recognises that NHS doctors work under intense pressure in environments where systems are less than perfect and where one-off mistakes may have tragic consequences.

'The same citizen recognises that to err is human and that public confidence places a greater value on remediation and redemption than on retribution.'

'We hope this is recognised and real changes come about as a result of the Williams and the GMC-commissioned independent reviews into gross negligence manslaughter to which the MDU contributed. In future, investigations following a patient death should centre on the opportunity to learn lessons rather than apportioning blame on individual doctors.'

This page was correct at publication on 13/08/2018. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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