Sunday, 3 August 2008

Doctor doctor you're in trouble

This appeals to my idea as to what passes as humour. It is also case law that for many years decided whether doctors were criminals in white coats or angels with scalpels. The test of a doctor's action on charges of negligence was whether he had done his best. The actual phrase was 'his incompetent best' The best he knew. Regardless of whether his treatment mirrored that of some African witch doctor, he was in the clear if it was the best he knew. Of course, Dr Shipman pretty well blew that out of the water. Anyway - her is the bit I think is funny.

"For Dr Spencer at his Norfolk surgery, the whoops-a-daisy moment came when he dosed a woman with bismuth. Startled by her dyspeptic response, and eager to reassure her increasingly agitated husband, he swallowed a spoonful of the stuff himself. “See? Perfectly safe!”
Two things then happened: Dr Spencer vomited, fell down and lay writhing on the floor. His patient died.
The explanation was simple. As the doctor explained to the coroner, bismuth and strychnine look remarkably similar in the bottle and, well, mistakes do happen. At the subsequent trial for manslaughter, Mr Justice Willes agreed. A simple blunder, he said, was not in itself a criminal act. To secure a conviction, the crown would have to prove that the doctor’s medicines were in such chaotic disorder that it was impossible for him to know which was which. Not guilty, said the jury.
That was in 1867. Legal actions against clinical killers then were exceedingly rare, and would remain so. By 1989 only six more doctors had been fingered for manslaughter – an average of one every 20 years. Then something changed. In the 1990s, 17 were prosecuted, and since 2000 there have been 11 more. One or two of them, like the Spencer case, were tales of startling improbability. A woman under anaesthetic was connected to an oxygen cylinder instead of to a ventilator and inflated like a balloon (the anaesthetist got six months’ jail, suspended for 18 months). Mostly, however, they were mundane tragedies of misread notes, wrong drugs or lethal doses administered by exhausted, inexperienced or occasionally negligent practitioners who failed in the most basic of their responsibilities"

So, looks as if chickens are flying home to roost. I had a couple of tussles with the doctors' guardians the MDU and I bet they do not like the modern-day approach one little bit.

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