Letters Case of GP who married patient’s widower

Disproportionately harsh treatment for GP who married a patient’s widower

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7421 (Published 16 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7421
  1. Christoph C Lees, consultant in obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine1
  1. 1NHS Teaching Hospital, London, UK
  1. christoph.lees{at}btinternet.com

The suspension of Dr Ames after marrying her deceased patient’s husband raises several questions.1

It is reported that Mr Owens was not her patient (although a patient of the practice), so technically Dr Ames did not have a duty of care with respect to her (now) husband. Furthermore, the General Medical Council, not Mr Owens, determined that he was “vulnerable.” What did the GMC base its determination of vulnerability on if its conclusion contradicts the assertion of the person considered to be vulnerable? Is it appropriate to label a competent adult, albeit recently bereaved, as vulnerable contrary to his own opinion?

Furthermore, GMC guidance states: “You must not use your professional position to establish or pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a patient or someone close to them.” So, what made this relationship improper? It ended in the marriage of someone in her 50s to someone in his 60s by mutual consent. Does this mean that it is appropriate under some circumstances for doctors to use their professional position to pursue a “proper” emotional relationship, or that all relationships with patients or someone close to them are by definition improper?

Of course the safeguards for abuse of professional position are necessary, but surely a six month suspension is disproportionately harsh given the circumstances and the ambiguous wording of GMC guidance?


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7421


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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