Scapegoating

I was aware that the case of Doctor Bawa-Garba, struck off following the death of a child from sepsis, was dodgy, given the many failings by the hospital, but the Medicine Balls column in the latest issue of Private Eye (number 1477) reveals just what a farce it was.

Yes, Doctor Bawa-Garba made a serious error, which she admitted to, but she was overworked due to a shortage of doctors and lacked proper equipment to do her job, while the consultant, a man with more experience and authority, refused to examine the child, despite having been giving the abnormal blood results that should have alerted him. Indeed, it is to avoid such things being missed that more than one pair of eyes is necessary – when one pair abdicate responsibility, the system fails. Doctor Bawa-Garba made a mistake – but, she was doing her job despite all the difficulties she faced. Doctor O’Riordan didn’t do his.

To compound matters, O’Riordan not only refused to take any blame, but accused her of being the sole individual at fault, before disappearing off to work in Ireland without any sort of investigation into his behaviour. There are also accusations that he deliberately turned the family of the dead child against Doctor Bawa-Garba, leading to the media witch hunt.

Then, there is the revelation that a far more serious error contributing to the child’s death was a decision to give him a drug that Doctor Bawa-Garba had declined to, due to the risk it presented given the health issues involved. An hour later, the child’s condition deteriorated. Yet this error has been ignored in the rush to blame her.

So, we have a doctor who was failed by the system, by her superior and her co-worker, yet has received the entirety of the blame when her blame is minimal – and, as a result, she has suffered a fine, the loss of her home, the threat of jail, the loss of her job, racial abuse and threats. Meanwhile, Doctor O’Riordan continues to work without a blemish and no information appears available as to whether her co-worker faced any sanction.

It’s no wonder doctors are leaving the NHS in droves, when a single mistake in difficult circumstances can destroy your life, while your superiors and the managers and ministers who are to blame for the mess go free.

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