The General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise hearing into the conduct of Dr. Valerie Murphy (LB’s consultant psychiatrist – and Responsible Clinician – at the STATT unit where he died) began at 9.30 this morning. It’s taken over four years to get to this point; shortly after LB’s drowning in the STATT bathtub, Dr. Murphy upped sticks and headed back to her native Ireland, where she has continued to practise.
I’m pretty uninformed about GMC procedures, but it appears that the Fitness to Practise Tribunal acts in a quasi-judicial manner. Three people – one legally qualified, one medically qualified and one a lay representative – act as the judge-and-jury panel, while the GMC acts as prosecutor and the doctor as defendant. Parties complaining of being injured by the doctor’s actions are kind of off to the side as witnesses.
Both the GMC and the doctor get to instruct counsel. Witnesses don’t; it is the GMC’s legal team who have to look after patients/complainants. Fortunately, the GMC’s solicitor seems to have been entirely as considerate as one could wish of LB’s family, and one hopes that the GMC barrister will be equally considerate of LB’s mother, Dr. Sara Ryan, when she comes to give evidence. One also hopes she will block the kind of disgraceful personal attacks on Dr. Ryan that Dr. Murphy’s inquest counsel indulged in, should anybody attempt to follow his example.
At today’s hearing, the Tribunal chair did introductions and housekeeping. The GMC barrister made an opening statement outlining the case against Dr. Murphy: the events in STATT; the first Verita report; the inquest findings; and findings from the investigations of the GMC’s expert witness.
Dr. Murphy’s barrister corrected a couple of minor errors regarding designations and dates, and suggested that the Verita report was possibly irrelevant and unspecific.
The legal bundles of paperwork – two lever arch files apiece – were distributed to the Tribunal panel members, and they retired to read through them. Evidence from witnesses will be not be heard until tomorrow.
And that was it. The public part of the hearing for today was all done and dusted in about an hour. The briefs were brief indeed. I hope the GMC solicitor had told Dr. Ryan that was likely to happen.
Imagine re-reading and re-re-reading all the evidence – the reams and reams of excruciatingly painful evidence – about your son’s death. Imagine it having this effect on you. Imagine psyching yourself up to do what was necessary, once more, to hold accountable the person who, above all others, could have put in place the precautions that would have avoided that death. Imagine turning up at the Tribunal and seeing that person face-to-face again. Imagine if you expected, that if you could hold it together until 5pm, your part would be all over. And then imagine being told, without warning: Not today; come back tomorrow.
I hope it didn’t happen that way. I do hope that warning wasn’t omitted.