In the wake of the Hadiza Bawa-Garba case, the Government has announced plans to review how criminal manslaughter laws apply to medical professionals. The review will be led by Norman Williams, former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, and is expected to conclude by the end of April 2018.
Addressing the House of Commons yesterday (6 February), health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the review will 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 health professionals know where they stand with respect to clinical liability or professional misconduct”. He said the review will focus on the need to protect reflective learning, openness, and transparency in medicine, to ensure that “mistakes are learnt from and not covered up”.
Dr Bawa-Garba was originally suspended from the medical register for 12 months last June by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in relation to errors in the care of six-year-old Jack Adcock, who died from cardiac arrest related to sepsis in 2011. The General Medical Council appealed the tribunal’s decision to the High Court and last month, Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, and has been struck off the medical register.
There has been widespread criticism that the decision did not take into account the conditions under which the junior paediatrician was working at the time of the incident. Bawa-Garba had just returned from 13 months’ maternity leave but had not received an induction. She was covering the children’s assessment unit and wards. The two junior doctors working under her had rotated to paediatrics only that month, the consultant covering the assessment unit was teaching elsewhere, and IT facilities for the whole hospital had broken down.