Catherine Henry Lawyers’ Senior Associate, Jane Bulter, has been invited to be on an expert panel at a Sydney Law School and the Menzies Centre for Health Policy seminar entitled “Manslaughter by gross negligence, or systemic failure? Implications of the Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba case for Australia”.
This event will be held at the Law School on Thursday November 8 from 6pm.
Professor Ian Freckelton QC is the keynote speaker. On the panel with Jane is Dr Penny Browne, Chief Medical Officer, Avant Mutual and Dr Andrew McDonald, Associate Professor in Paediatrics, Western Sydney University School of Medicine and former shadow Health Minister. Jane is a Health Lawyer and expert in medical litigation.
Background to the Dr Bawa-Garba case
On Friday morning, February 18, 2011, six-year-old Jack Alcock was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary Hospital in England in a limp and unresponsive state, following 12 hours of vomiting and diarrhoea. By 9.20pm that night he was dead, due to sepsis and organ failure arising from pneumonia, which remained undiagnosed during the day. Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was the doctor on duty in the Children’s Assessment Unit at the hospital, where Jack remained for most of the day.
On November 4, 2015, Dr Bawa-Garba was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. Her conviction sparked scrutiny and criticism from doctors around the world. Following her conviction, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service suspended Dr Bawa-Garba from practice for 12 months, but decided against striking her from the medical register. The UK General Medical Council appealed this decision to the High Court, which removed her from the register in January 2018. On appeal, the Court of Appeal restored the decision of the Tribunal, re-instating the suspension of Dr Bawa-Garba for 12 months, subject to review.
On the day of the tragedy, Dr Bawa-Garba was covering the Children’s Assessment Unit because she had volunteered to fill in for a colleague who was absent. She worked a double shift, without any breaks, also covering cases in the general paediatrics ward, and the Emergency Department. In a letter of support for Dr Bawa-Garba, 159 pediatricians condemned the punitive approach taken against one doctor “against a background of numerous systemic failures”, adding that they would be confident to employ Dr Bawa-Garba upon her re-instatement to the medical register.
The seminar will review the case and consider its implications for medical practice in Australia. Was Dr Bawa-Garba treated unfairly, and how should the Medical Board of Australia (and in NSW, the NSW Medical Council) and other professional bodies respond in such cases? How should community expectations be met in tragic cases like this one? Are there solutions to the staffing challenges that place unreasonable demands on medical practitioners?