Junior doctor’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter raises concern over medical training

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 22 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4674
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. 1Hamburg

An intern in Germany who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the hospital death of an infant has appealed the conviction in a higher court.

The intern, who since has been certified and now practises medicine at another hospital, is being supported in his appeal by the University of Münster, where he studied medicine.

In August 2011 the intern was drawing blood from a 10 month old infant at a hospital in Bielefeld when a nurse entered the room with an oral dose of the antibiotic co-trimoxazole to be administered to the baby. The co-trimoxazole was in a syringe that was plugged with a red combi stopper, which the hospital said indicated that it was not to be used intravenously. The nurse testified that she told the intern that it was an oral antibiotic.

But the intern testified that the nurse said, “Here is the medicine.” The intern thought the medicine was the antibiotic Refobacin (gentamicin) and administered the antibiotic via the infant’s already operational intravenous therapy. The baby suffered anaphylactic shock and died.

In October 2012 the intern was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by the local court of Bielefeld and fined €1800 (£1550; $2370).1

After the conviction, 700 junior doctors and medical students at Münster University met the medical faculty, legal experts, and representatives of health insurance companies to discuss the ruling. After several hours of discussion, everyone present at the meeting agreed that the conviction could have a negative effect on medical training in Germany and that the intern should appeal to a higher court.

The next session of the appeal, being heard in Bielefeld District Court, is scheduled for 5 August. Several experts are expected to testify, including Bernhard Marschall, dean of Münster’s faculty of medicine.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4674

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