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Doctor who spiked girlfriend’s drink to induce abortion is struck off

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4208 (Published 01 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4208
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A former consultant chest physician has been struck off the medical register for trying to poison his lover to induce an abortion, and four of his research publications have been retracted after an investigation for scientific misconduct concluded that he manipulated data.

Edward Erin, a consultant at St Mary’s Hospital in London, was struck off by the General Medical Council for conduct deemed “utterly unacceptable and fundamentally incompatible with his remaining a medical practitioner.” He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2009 for attempting to procure a miscarriage by spiking the drinks of Bella Prowse, his secretary at the hospital, after she refused to have an abortion (BMJ 2009;339:b4906, doi:10.1136/bmj.b4906).

Dr Erin carried out research at the National Heart and Lung Institute’s clinical studies unit at Imperial College London. In 2008, after he was charged with the criminal offence, the GMC imposed conditions on his registration, banning him from seeing patients but allowing him to continue with research trials on asthma, allergy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and respiratory disease.

Two articles and two abstracts of which he was lead author have been retracted by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the request of Imperial College and four of the other authors. The journal cited “concerns regarding the veracity of the data and the validity of the conclusions” (http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/reprint/183/3/418).

A spokesman for Imperial College said that the investigation was launched after a coauthor raised concerns about the data. “The review concluded that there were inaccuracies in data and that the evidence suggested these inaccuracies came from deliberate modification of results rather than by error.

“It also concluded that Dr Erin was the most likely person to have modified the data and that there was no evidence that implicated other authors.”

Dr Erin obtained diclofenac and methotrexate tablets through a false prescription, ground them up, and put them in a hot drink and in a bottle of orange juice. But Ms Prowse became suspicious and contacted police. She went on to give birth to a healthy boy.

The married father of two, who was exposed during the trial as a serial philanderer, was described by the judge who presided over his trial as “a flawed character . . . vainglorious and irresponsible.” Expert evidence was given at the trial that the drugs, if taken as Dr Erin intended, might have damaged Ms Prowse’s bone marrow, liver, and lungs and caused fetal abnormalities in future pregnancies.

The GMC’s fitness to practise panel said that Dr Erin’s offences were premeditated acts, using his medical skills and knowledge, to attempt to cause serious harm to others. “As a doctor he knew or should have known that methotrexate in particular could cause long term harm to his intended victim and her unborn child.”

He had “shown no remorse for his actions and the panel has received no evidence to suggest he has now gained insight into the gravity of his actions.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4208

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