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When a doctor goes wrong

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5455 (Published 10 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5455
  1. Krishna Chinthapalli, neurology registrar
  1. 1Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford
  1. kchinthapalli{at}bmj.com

Good and evil medical practice on the roads to Damascus

On dealing with a murderous physician, Sherlock Holmes remarked, “When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge.”

One doctor also has nerve agents and knowledge of how to use them. At the Western Eye Hospital in London, Bashar al-Assad’s consultant supervisor said of him, “He was an extremely kind person and a warm personality . . . He would have been a good doctor.”1 A nurse said that he was “calm at the operating table and had a wonderful manner with the patients . . . He spoke with every patient just before surgery to reassure them all would be well.”

Now all is certainly not well for the millions of people under his care. Doctor Bashar—as Syrians once called him—president of Syria and a former ophthalmologist, is held indirectly or directly responsible for most of the 100 000 deaths and the two million refugees in his country’s ongoing civil war. After an incendiary bomb landed on a school last month, the head teacher, reported widely in the media, said, “There were dead people, people burning, and people running away, but where to? Where would they go? It is not safe anywhere.”

He may have been thinking of the …

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