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Court of appeal overturns Dr Bawa-Garba case decision

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was struck off the medical register in January

22 Aug 2018 by Emily McCormick

The Court of Appeal has overturned a decision to strike a doctor off the medical register over the death of a six-year-old boy.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in 2015 following the death of Jack Adcock, who died of sepsis at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.

Having received a 24-month suspended sentence for the conviction, a medical practitioners tribunal suspended Dr Bawa-Garba for one year. However, the General Medical Council (GMC) appealed the tribunal’s decision and called for the doctor to be struck off.

In January this year, Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off the medical register after the High Court ruled in favour of the GMC.

However, the Court of Appeal overturned that decision last Monday (13 August).

Speaking after the appeal, Dr Bawa-Garba said she was pleased with the outcome, but wanted to pay tribute and remember Jack Adcock, BBC News reported.

The case

Six-year-old Jack Adcock had Down’s syndrome and a heart condition. In 2011 he was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary with vomiting and diarrhoea, and 11 hours later died from a cardiac arrest caused by sepsis triggered by pneumonia.

A trial in 2015 concluded that Jack’s death was caused by “serious neglect” by staff who failed to recognise his body was “shutting down” and close to death, the prosecution claimed.

After Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off, thousands of doctors signed an open letter in her support and her appeal was funded by a crowdfunding appeal.

The appeal

On 13 August, three senior judges at the Court of Appeal quashed the High Court’s decision to strike Dr Bawa-Garba off the medical register and restored the one-year suspension.

Following the decision, chief executive of the GMC, Charlie Massey, said: “As the independent regulator responsible for protecting patient safety, we are frequently called upon to take difficult decisions, and we do not take that role lightly.”

He added that the case had “exposed a raft of concerns” around the role of criminal law in medicine and the GMC had commissioned an independent review as a consequence.

Responding to the outcome, president elect of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Dr Jackie Taylor, said: “We welcome this decision by the Court of Appeal. We particularly welcome the clarity that it has brought to the role of the Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service and the courts when dealing with medical issues.” 

Dr Taylor highlighted that “the whole profession now needs to reflect on this case in order to create a no-blame culture within the NHS, which would be in the best interests of patients, clinicians and the NHS as a whole.”

Image credit: Flickr/mnfoundations

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