Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Letters Bawa-Garba case

GMC chair’s reply to Nick Ross’s second letter regarding Hadiza Bawa-Garba

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 19 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k765

Rapid Response:

GMC is "between a rock and hard place"

Many doctors would disagree with the "discretionary decisions" of GMC in this matter.(1). But, on the other hand, one has to acknowledge that GMC is "between a rock and hard place" with Dr Bawa-Garba case. GMC is ultimately beholden to the political task-masters in the parliament. So it is no surprise that GMC weighs up how the issue might play out in the public arena. The BMJ rapid response section is no match for the comments section of widely read national newspapers. (1).

I would also go further and add that the recent actions of the GMC has been in fact brought more attention to Dr Bawa-Garba's legal case. For instance, there were no published rapid responses to the news of the original conviction in the BMJ in 2015. (2) .

I am also perplexed by the outrage which is disproportionately directed against GMC when in fact it should be predominantly directed against the legal system which seems to criminalise medical mistakes. As Terence Stephenson points out the legal systems in UK are adversarial in nature and it is the legal system that needs reform.(3). Criminalisation of medical errors can lead to defensive medicine and ultimately can make NHS financially unsustainable. We have to convince the public and parliament to urgently reform medical manslaughter laws or else the future of NHS is in peril (4).

(1) Stephenson T. GMC chair’s reply to Nick Ross’s second letter regarding Hadiza Bawa-Garba. BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 19 February 2018).
(2) Senior doctor, 35, who was convicted of manslaughter over blunders that resulted in death of boy, six, can be struck off, High Court rules. Daily Mail. Published: 25 January 2018. (accessed 3/3/2018).
(3) Dyer C. Paediatrician found guilty of manslaughter after boy’s death from septic shock. BMJ 2015;351:h5969. doi: (Published 05 November 2015).
(4) Lacobucci G. Health secretary orders review into use of medical manslaughter. BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 06 February 2018).
(5) Sundar S. Legal case marks the beginning of the end for NHS. BMJ 2015; 351. doi: (Published 04 November 2015).

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 March 2018
S Sundar
Consultant Oncologist
Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust