Yesterday, the Court of Appeal threw out the General Medical Council’s (GMC) case to have Dr Bawa Garba erased from the medical register over her part in the death of Jack Adcock. The case has caused concern to doctors and families around the world, with medics fearing the loss of their career for honest mistakes; families fearing doctors will be above the law; [and managers not fearing much at all].
There’s much that’s been said on this, and much more to be done. But I wanted to pick up one question that’s worth thinking about – given that we follow the Bawa Garba case, not because of the British Medical Association etc., but because of campaigning junior doctors at #TeamHadiza.
What would’ve happened without crowdfunding?
Dr Lauren Gavaghan asked this on Twitter. She made the point that a doctor’s career would’ve been sacrificed without proper scrutiny of the systemic failures and the GMC’s conduct.
The death of Peter Connelly (Baby P) gives an answer.
Peter died due to violent domestic abuse that was not halted due to multiple systemic failings. The frontline doctor who carried the can was Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat. She was a locum in a high-risk service that was already failing (as reported by whistleblower, Dr Kim Holt).
Dr Al-Zayyat’s health deteriorated under the media spotlight that followed Peter’s death. Undersupported and without crowdfunding, she sought voluntary erasure from the medical register. The GMC refused, at first insisting she be dragged through their public procedures, so lessons were learnt. [It has yet to adopt any similar approach to the prominent white surgeons involved in the avoidable death of Caitlyn Parry.]
Private Eye’s Dr Phil Hammond analysed Dr Al-Zayyat’s case here. The GMC, while quick to pursue her, were painfully slow to investigate the powerful doctor responsible for the service in which Peter died.
Sadly, Dr Bawa Garba’s case and the authorities’ responses are not news. What’s news is #BawaGarba – the spotlight that junior doctors and social media have put on institutions like the GMC – where picking on vulnerable doctors while shielding powerful ones has long seemed the norm.