German doctor cleared by GMC

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 23 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:726
  1. Stuart Smith

    A doctor accused of endangering the lives of babies in two British hospitals by prescribing the wrong drugs was last week cleared by the General Medical Council's professional conduct committee. German born Elisabeth Zittlau, 35, had been accused of incompetence over a 16 month period in 1994 and 1995 while she was working as a paediatrician at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and at the Bradford Royal Infirmary.

    After a two day hearing, Dr Zittlau, from Nordhorn in the former Federal Republic of Germany, was cleared of prescribing diazepam for an infant with asthma in Northallerton and of charges of improperly administering drugs to babies in Bradford.

    The doctor had claimed that she was offered next to no help at either hospital, despite her inexperience, and had to “muddle through” by herself.

    She told the hearing that at the hospital at Northallerton there were no middle ranking staff, and she was instructed to inform her consultant if there was a problem with a baby, or if there was a new patient.

    Her barrister, Mr Martin Forde, said that although his client had felt “out of her depth,” she had done her best to safeguard the patients in her charge. Dr Zittlau had admitted making inadequate notes and other errors at both hospitals but she had done her best under trying circumstances. Dr Zittlau told the hearing that she had never had to resuscitate babies when working in Germany and did not know how to work the resuscitation equipment. The hearing was also told that Dr Zittlau took up her post at Bradford without telling staff that she had been sacked from Friarage Hospital.

    After the hearing, Dr Zittlau, who was sacked for incompetence by both hospitals, and had previously been dismissed from a post in Germany, expressed her wish to obtain work at a British hospital in the near future.—STUART SMITH, Fleetline News Agency

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