‘First do no harm’ – but what when things go wrong?

We’ve seen a couple of very high profile cases in the media recently, where mistakes made by doctors have had tragic consequences.  In the case of 6 year old Jack Adcock, paediatrician Dr H Bawa-Garba was criticised (and prosecuted) for errors made leading to his death.   In the other case, 5 year old Ellie-May Clark died from an asthma attack after being turned away unseen by her GP for being a few minutes late for an emergency appointment.

Both cases resulted in the death of a young child.  It’s beyond words how terribly sad these cases are, and the lives of the families will never be the same after such loss.  It’s made immeasurably worse that these deaths may well have been avoidable.  No one could presume to know what the families have been through, and have to face for the future.

Whilst not for a moment forgetting their experience and these young lost lives, should we not spare a thought and some sympathy for the doctors involved?

The reality is that many medical decision-makers are making countless life or death judgments every day.   How many of us are taking that responsibility in our daily lives?  Which of us has never made a professional mistake?  As a former claimant lawyer I believe patients should receive competent care and that those providing it should absolutely be accountable.  However, I am also grateful to those who are prepared to put their lifetime peace of mind on the line by making difficult decisions on matters where the consequences will frequently be life-changing.  Struck off or not, an event of this sort can be career-ending and devastating on a personal level for the person responsible.  Let’s see some compassion for those doing a difficult job, often in compromised circumstances.