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Junior doctor allowed to continue with surgery after pregnant woman died

Medical tribunal rules that trainee surgeon can still carry out procedures despite death of patient

Pregnant woman died after surgery

16 May 2014

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service Fitness to Practice panel recently reviewed the work of a trainee surgeon and has ruled that he can continue to practice despite the death of a mother-of- three in his care.

Medical negligence solicitor and partner Olive Lewin is concerned that a surgeon whose attitude was described by the disciplinary tribunal as having a "cavalier attitude “will be allowed to continue with his training and practice.

Yahya Al-Abed removed an ovary from Maria de Jesus, who was pregnant, in error after she was admitted to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, suffering from suspected appendicitis.

Al-Abed carried out the complicated procedure as the senior consultant had gone home, and without the help of a junior doctor. 

Three weeks later de Jesus was readmitted to hospital with abdominal pain.  She subsequently miscarried and died in theatre four days later.

Al-Abed denied misconduct but admitted that he had not realised that he had removed the ovary instead of the appendix, did not communicate with a senior doctor, had little experience of operating on pregnant women and failed to ensure that he was supervised by a consultant during the procedure.

While ruling that Al-Abed can continue to work as a surgeon a number of restrictions have been imposed on him including having all his operations supervised by a consultant or equivalent.

The panel also ruled that the doctor had been left "out on a limb" and the consultant on call, Mr Babatunde Coker, admitted failing in his role by not carrying out the operation himself or overseeing the surgery by the registrar.

Coker will also be allowed to continue to practice although he will be subject to greater supervision.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, has said that the case shows that there is a need to change the law so that the GMC can appeal to the High Court if it felt that the sancions imposed by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service were too light.

He said:

“We are very disappointed by these decisions. We believe that, although this was a single clinical incident, the seriousness of it - and the subsequent tragic death of Mrs de Jesus - warranted the suspension of both doctors' licence to practise.”

Olive said:

“It is deeply worrying that a junior surgeon was allowed to carry out such a complicated procedure at the week-end, and without the support and supervision of a more experienced colleague.

“We know from our own clients, including one who was left paralysed when his consultant went home and failed to supervise the post-operative care of his patient, that the combination of weak supervision and inexperienced doctors can have catastrophic consequences for patients.

To speak to a member of the medical negligence team at Leigh Day please call on 020 7650 1200 or fill in our enquiry form and someone from the team will get back to you shortly.

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