Doctors and Incompetence

A recent BBC report identified a surgeon working at King George Hospital in Ilford during the period 2007 and 2008. Against the advice of the General Medical Council (GMC) the surgeon has now been employed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Note well: against the advice of the GMC.

The GMC found the surgeon guilty of serious professional misconduct and dishonesty and recommended that he be struck off. Yet he is still working.

On reading the article I was reminded of my own daughter, Susan. She was one of twins born in 1977. Our GP had written on my wife’s ‘co-op’ card that there was a possibility of a multiple birth, in red and three times underlined. This I handed in to the nurse on arrival at the hospital when my wife went into the delivery room.

The first twin was born by forceps after it was found that her shoulder was caught on my wife’s pelvis. Give him his due, the doctor attending the delivery came to see me and told me that. I thought: Ah, well that confirms it then – and started to think about all the additional things I would have to buy. The doctor had gone by the time I came to and was able to ask him anything more about the birth.

I walked to the entrance to the delivery room; I had been told to leave when the possible use of forceps was discussed. I looke in and heard a shout: there’s another one here! Panic and pandemonium erupted. After the second twin was born I was told that she would be severely brain damaged because the cord was wrapped round her neck.

A few weeks later our own doctor came to see us and told us he didn’t think we had been told the truth. He gave us the name and address of a solicitor. An inquiry found that after the first birth, a drug was injected to contract the uterus and expel the afterbirth. The doctor didn’t know there was the possibility of a multiple birth because he hadn’t read the co-op card! We were told there was a prima facie case of negligence.

However, medical experts concluded that it was an accident. Indeed, one said that, anyway, he had no intention of ruining a colleague’s career. Without expert opinion to say that negligence was involved the case collapsed. Susan lived for fifteen years and died choking on her food.

The experience taught me that all doctors must be treated like incompetent idiots and must be questioned carefully to ensure they know what’s going on. It also taught me that doctors think far more about other doctors than they do their patients.

The article by the BBC seems to show that nothing has changed.

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