"Absolute disgrace": Mother of dead boy outraged after pediatrician convicted of manslaughter wins right to practice again

6-year-old Jack Adcock from Glen Parva, Leicestershire, died at the Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011 after he contracted sepsis

                            "Absolute disgrace": Mother of dead boy outraged after pediatrician convicted of manslaughter wins right to practice again
(Source:Getty Images)

A pediatrician, who was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after a 6-year-old boy in her care died in 2011, has won her appeal against being struck off the medical register.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba had received a 1-year suspension by Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT) in June 2017, but which was successfully appealed against by the General Medical Council (GMC) in January, and her name was stuck off the register.

The GMC had then argued in court that the doctor's suspension was "not sufficient" to keep the public safe or even maintain the confidence regular people have on the medical profession.

Six-year-old Jack Adcock from Glen Parva, Leicestershire, died at the Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011 after he contracted sepsis. The boy had Down's Syndrome as well as a heart condition.

Dr. Bawa-Garba spoke to BBC about her successful appeal and said: "I'm very pleased with the outcome but I want to pay tribute and remember Jack Adcock, a wonderful little boy that started the story. I want to let the parents know that I'm sorry for my role in what has happened to Jack. I also want to acknowledge and give gratitude to people around the world from the public to the medical community who have supported me. I'm very overwhelmed by the generosity and I'm really grateful for that."

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, the Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Rafferty all unanimously said that Dr. Bawa-Garba's name should be put back in the medical register henceforth and have remitted the matter to the MPT for further review of the suspension which is to remain as it is for the meantime.

Sir Terence Etherton said: "The members of the Court express their deep sympathy with Jack's parents, who attended the hearing in person, as well as respect for the dignified and resolute way in which they have coped with a terrible loss in traumatic circumstances. The present case is unusual. No concerns have ever been raised about the clinical competence of Dr Bawa-Garba, other than in relation to Jack's death, even though she continued to be employed at the hospital until her conviction. The evidence before the tribunal was that she was in the top third of her specialist trainee cohort."

"The tribunal was satisfied that her deficient actions in relation to Jack were neither deliberate nor reckless, that she had remedied the deficiencies in her clinical skills and did not present a continuing risk to patients, and that the risk of her clinical practice suddenly and without explanation falling below the standards expected on any given day was no higher than for any other reasonably competent doctor. The tribunal was an expert body entitled to reach all those conclusions, including the important factor weighing in favour of Dr Bawa-Garba that she is a competent and useful doctor, who presents no material continuing danger to the public, and can provide considerable useful future service to society."

He added: "Undoubtedly, there are some cases where the facts are such that the most severe sanction, erasure from the Medical Register, is the only proper and reasonable sanction. This is not one of them. Once it is understood that it was permissible for the tribunal to take into account the full context of Jack's death, including the range of persons bearing responsibility for that tragedy and the systemic failings of the hospital, as well as the other matters relied upon by Dr Bawa-Garba, and that the tribunal plainly had in mind its overriding obligation to protect the public for the future, it is impossible to say that the suspension sanction imposed by the tribunal was not one properly open to it and that the only sanction properly and reasonably available was erasure."

Chair of the Doctors' Association UK, Dr. Samantha Batt-Rawden, said: "This is a small step in the right direction for patients and doctors. We need to make sure that patients and families get the answers they need through open and transparent engagement with NHS organisations. The GMC needs to rethink its priorities in enabling this to happen rather than aggressively pursuing doctors in the courts."

Chief Executive of the General Medical Council (GMC), Charlie Massey, said after the ruling: "We fully accept the Court of Appeal's judgment. This was a case of the tragic death of a child, and the consequent criminal conviction of a doctor. It was important to clarify the different roles of criminal courts and disciplinary tribunals in cases of gross negligence manslaughter, and we will carefully examine the court's decision to see what lessons can be learnt." 

However, Nicky Adcock, the boy's mother, spoke to Sky News and said that she was going to fight the decision to the Supreme Court. She said: "The verdict was an 'absolute disgrace' that set 'a precedent for doctors to do exactly what they like. All they're concerned about is the doctors in the profession. It seems people seem to be quite scared of the doctors, they seem to think they're untouchable."