The MDU welcomed today’s announcement by Jeremy Hunt of a ‘rapid review’ into the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare.
Announcing a government review in the House of Commons, Jeremy Hunt said the review would examine ‘how we ensure there is clarity about where the line is drawn between gross negligence manslaughter and ordinary human error in medical practice so that doctors and other healthcare professionals know where they stand with respect to criminal liability or professional misconduct.’
Dr Matthew Lee, professional services director, said:
“Although we did not represent Dr Bawa-Garba we recognise the strength of feeling this case has evoked throughout the medical profession.
“We welcome this announcement and agree wholeheartedly that action is needed to provide clarity and restore the confidence of front-line doctors. We have been pushing for fundamental change in this area for some time and we hope that the outcome of this review leads to changes that promote a culture in the health service that is not one of fear and blame but one of fairness, transparency and learning from mistakes.”
Ian Barker, MDU senior solicitor who has represented many doctors accused of manslaughter said:
“Emotionally, it can be devastating for doctors when something goes wrong with a patient’s treatment, with the suggestion that you may have played a part in a patient's death. If it is then alleged that not only did you get it wrong, but you are a criminal in consequence, it can turn something which is deeply distressing into a nightmare.
“We hope that the government review will lead to some much needed help for doctors around this difficult situation. Doctors should be able to focus on doing their best for their patients when making difficult decisions without the increased pressure of thinking, ‘if I get this wrong, I could end up in prison’. In many cases system errors will have played a part. We need to fix the problem, not the blame.”
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