08 September 2010
Dr Freddy Patel – suspended
A HOME Office pathologist who was criticised for his autopsy on a G20 protest victim has been suspended for three months.
Dr Freddy Patel, 63, who said that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack during the demonstration, was found to have been "irresponsible" in three earlier autopsies – one of which was on a five-year-old Holloway girl who had been abused by her stepmother.
The pathologist, who is based at St Pancras Mortuary in Camley Street, King's Cross, and deals with deaths in Islington and Camden, was told he had been guilty of "very serious" failings at a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing on Friday.
Richard Davies, chairman of the GMC disciplinary panel, told Dr Patel his "shortcomings arose from a failure to take account of, or otherwise adhere to, relevant professional guidance."
However, Dr Patel was only banned for 12 weeks – because there "could well be a genuine public interest" in him working again. Patel will only be allowed to work on non-suspicious deaths. He is also barred from acting as an expert witness for the defense in suspicious death cases.
Dr Patel was found to have been "irresponsible" in three autopsies.
The first related to Annastacia, who died days after being found convulsing in Sutterton Street, Holloway, in September 2002.
Dr Patel was said to have made a "cursory" examination – missing "significant marks of violence".
The youngster had to be exhumed after X-rays revealed broken bones. A second pathologist found finger-nail gouges and a bite mark.
Annastacia's stepmother, Christine Green, was jailed for four years after being convicted of child cruelty in 2003, while her father was jailed for two years for neglect.
Dr Patel was cleared of misconduct with regard to his examination, but was found guilty of deficient professional performance. He was, however, found guilty of misconduct in respect to two other post-mortems.
One was into the death of a three-week-old baby who had allegedly died from cot death in August 2003.
While Dr Patel raised the alarm when he found fractured ribs, he failed to conduct a full skeletal survey before the autopsy.
The panel found Dr Patel had "deliberately ignored the guidelines" for his own convenience.
In the third case, Dr Patel changed his opinion on an autopsy of an elderly woman, who was found dead at the foot of her stairs "to satisfy the family".
The Crown Prosecution Service, which has a lawyer reviewing the Tomlinson case, has said it will now look at the GMC's findings.
Dr Patel found that Mr Tomlinson died of natural causes linked to coronary artery disease.
But two other pathologists ruled Mr Tomlinson died of internal bleeding as a result of blunt force trauma, in combination with cirrhosis of the liver. The pathologists' failure to agree led to no charges being brought
CPS examines pathologist Freddy Patel's suspension
CPS lawyer in Ian Tomlinson case 'considering General Medical Council's findings' that pathologist was guilty of misconduct
The Home Office pathologist criticised for suggesting the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/g20-police-assault-ian-tomlinson> died of a heart attack during the G20 protests in 2009 has been suspended from practice for three months.
The disciplinary ruling imposed by the General Medical Council on Dr Freddy Patel came after he was found guilty of misconduct or "deficient professional performance" in three earlier autopsy cases.
The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently announced that its lawyer reviewing evidence in the Tomlinson case would now "consider the GMC's findings".
The 63-year-old had already been suspended from the Home Office register of forensic pathologists after questions were asked about the examination carried out on the body of Ian Tomlinson, who died in April last year.
Tomlinson died after being struck and shoved to the ground by riot police during protests in the City of London in April 2009. Patel was the first pathologist to examine his body.
Patel said Tomlinson died of a heart attack, implying that his death was due to natural causes. A second examination contradicted that finding, suggesting instead that the newspaper vendor had died from internal bleeding.
In July Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, announced that no charges would be brought against any police officers. The latest CPS move stops short of suggesting it will reopen the whole file into Tomlinson's death.
The Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones has written to Starmer calling on the CPS to restore public trust and demonstrate that "the police are not above the law" by "reconsidering this disastrous decision" not to prosecute.
"The fact that there is disagreement among the medical witnesses is an insufficient reason not to pursue a conviction, given the information now known about Mr Patel," she said in her letter. "Let the evidence and the accounts of the various witnesses be heard in an open court, and a decision reached by a jury on where the truth lies."
In its highly critical judgment today, the GMC panel said Patel's response to criticism had "not been marked by frank and rounded insight".
Patel, it added, "offered no expression of regret in relation to those instances where [the panel] found shortcomings of misconduct and/or deficient professional performance.
"Indeed, the panel considers that you did not show the range and depth of insight that could reasonably be expected of an experienced forensic pathologist. In particular you have not addressed the very serious aspect of your misconduct as it relates to the finding that certain of your acts and omissions in Mrs D's case [where Patel altered his findings to satisfy relatives] were misleading."
The GMC also imposed restrictions on his future work, including effectively banning him from carrying out postmortem examinations in suspicious death cases and subjecting a sample of his casework to medical peer review.
Patel had been censured by a GMC disciplinary panel in 2002 for breaching patient confidentiality.
Lawyers for the pathologist said: "It would be inappropriate for Dr Patel to comment at this stage given the possibility that he may be asked to give evidence by the coroner at the inquest into Ian Tomlinson's death. Dr Patel needs time to consider the GMC's decision with his advisers."
Responding to the GMC ruling, Tomlinson's widow, Julia, said: "[The] decision confirms that the GMC do not think Patel is fit to practise and has been an obstacle to the truth in a number of cases. It is heartbreaking to us that he was involved in Ian's case and the real question for our family is why with his track record he was appointed in the first place. We look ahead to the inquest now and hope that we will finally get some answers."
During the GMC hearing, into three earlier postmortem examinations carried out by Patel, the panel criticised his failure to identify visible injuries on a child's body. It said he had performed "only a cursory external examination of the body" and adopted an "incurious approach".
In the case of Miss C, an eight-week-old baby thought to have suffered a cot death, Dr Patel was blamed for failing to carry out a full skeletal X-ray to establish whether there had been any injuries. Not to have done so was professionally irresponsible, the GMC said.
G20 pathologist’s mistake ‘caused three years of hell’
A woman told today of her family's “three years of hell” after a mistake by the pathologist who performed the disputed post-mortem on G20 <http://standard/related-133359-group-of-twenty.do> newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson <http://standard/related-77754-ian-tomlinson.do> .
Stella Karaviotis, 45, had to fight a legal battle after Dr Freddy Patel <http://standard/related-79541-freddy-patel.do> gave the wrong cause of death for her 66-year-old mother Eleni, of Archway, who suffered an embolism in 2004.
She spoke out after Dr Patel was suspended from the medical register for three months. His punishment this month followed a General Medical Council <http://standard/related-44038-general-medical-council.do> disciplinary panel which ruled that Dr Patel, 63, was guilty of misconduct in two earlier post-mortem examinations. The panel also ruled that he had been professionally deficient in a third one.
Dr Patel has been suspended from the Home Office register of forensic pathologists after questions were asked about the post-mortem on 47-year-old Mr Tomlinson, who died in April last year. Dr Patel concluded that Mr Tomlinson, who was pushed to the ground by a policeman, died of natural causes but two other pathologists blamed internal bleeding.
The failure of the three pathologists to agree on the cause of Mr Tomlinson's death led to the Director of Public Prosecutions deciding not to charge the policeman.
Miss Karaviotis claims her mother suffered an embolism after a plaster cast was put on her ankle at the Royal Free Hospital <http://standard/related-41591-royal-free-hospital.do> . Despite complaining that she was in pain, Mrs Karaviotis was discharged and four days later suffered a heart attack and died at the Whittington Hospital <http://standard/related-46250-whittington-hospital.do> , Islington <http://standard/related-1220-islington.do> .
Miss Karaviotis says she was told by doctors at the Whittington that her mother died from a blood clot, probably caused by the cast. An interim death certificate gave the cause of death as a pulmonary embolism.
However, Dr Patel concluded that she died of a brain haemorrhage, giving the cause of death as natural causes. After a three-year legal battle, a coroner reversed his findings.
Miss Karaviotis said: “Freddy Patel caused us so much pain. We knew from the beginning that he was wrong. The doctors told us exactly what had happened to my mother but he changed it all.”
G20 pathologist is suspended amid claims of broken post-mortem rules
Expert who said murder victim had died naturally faces new inquiry over protester’s death
THE pathologist who ruled one of Camden Ripper serial killer Anthony Hardy’s victims died of natural causes has been suspended by the pathologists’ monitoring board following a second controversy, the New Journal can reveal.
Dr Freddy Patel, who had been on a government register of accredited pathologists, was suspended on June 2 amid concern he was not following Home Office regulations
He was suspended by the Pathology Delivery Board after it emerged he did not meet requirements to have a contract with a police force and was not a member of a group practice – a team of three or more forensic pathologists who check each others’ work.
The discovery came after he carried out a forensic post-mortem in to the death of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper vendor who died at the G20 riots in April.
His suspension means he cannot carry out any forensic post-mortems for the Home Office – effectively, all cases involving suspicious deaths – while his conduct is investigated.
The breaches were uncovered during a routine review of the practice of pathologists on the Home Office list by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the operational arm of the pathology board that monitor the register for the Home Office.
Dr Patel, who registered with the General Medical Council under the name Mohmed Saeed Sulema Patel in 1988, is still free to conduct post-mortems, although his work is restricted to examining non-suspicious deaths.
He has carried out hundreds of post-mortems and given evidence to scores of inquests at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in King’s Cross over the past 10 years.
Dr Patel is understood to have told investigators he was part of the South East Group Practice, the practice that carry out forensic post-mortems for the Metropolitan Police.
The group, called the Forensic Pathology Service, includes Dr Nat Carey, the pathologist who went on to carry out the second post-mortem into Ian Tomlinson and came to the conclusion that he died from internal bleeding.
Investigators want to know why Dr Patel conducted the post mortem on Mr Tomlinson when it appeared he does not currently hold a police contract, another requirement of the Home Office rules.
Dr Patel hit the headlines with his findings into the death of Sally White, a 39-year-old woman found dead in the Camden Town council flat home of Hardy in January 2002. Dr Patel gave evidence to an inquest suggesting she had died of natural causes but Hardy was later convicted of her murder at the Old Bailey.
While her death was initially treated as suspicious by police – Ms White’s naked body was found locked away in a spare room with a bite mark to the thigh and a head wound – detectives said they abandoned their inquiries after it was ruled she had died of a heart attack.
Detective Inspector Alan Bostock said afterwards: “The cause of [Sally White’s] death was given as coronary heart disease which we refer to as natural causes. I get paid to investigate unexplained deaths, suspicious deaths, not deaths by natural causes. All those decisions are important decisions that are not made by me.”
Hardy, now serving a life sentence, went on to murder two more women around Christmas 2002, cutting up his victims and dumping them in bin bags in Camden’s most horrific criminal case.
Dr Patel’s contract with the Metropolitan police was not renewed when it expired in 2004.
A police spokeswoman said: “The contract went to the Forensic Pathology Service in December 2006 and he wasn’t part of that group. It was a whole change of system.”
Dean Jones, the senior pathologist manager for the NPIA who is leading the investigation into Dr Patel’s work, said it was essential that forensic pathologists worked as part of a group practice to “ensure a high quality of performance”.
He said: “Dr Patel hasn’t been contracted to any police force for several years.
“He must know that he should be a member of a group practice. There are conditions that you need to comply with and if you don’t, there are risks that you’re not having your work checked – and it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good – but that’s what the checks and balances are there for.”
Dr Patel was assigned to the Tomlinson post-mortem by the City of London coroner Paul Matthews.
Yesterday (Wednesday), responding to questions about why he appointed Dr Patel, Mr Matthews said: “I am waiting for Dr Patel to comment on the facts asserted in the question [Dr Patel’s suspension] before responding, but intend to respond once he has commented.”
A spokesman for the NPIA said: “Dr Freddy Patel was suspended and removed from the Forensic Pathology list on June 2 2009 as he was no longer working as part of a ‘group practice’, an obligation placed on all registered pathologists.
“As part of our investigation we’re investigating a number of issues in relation to Dr Patel, including what forensic post-mortems he conducted outside of the Metropolitan police and how many were performed whilst he wasn’t part of a group practice.”
Dr Patel qualified as a surgeon in 1974 from the University of Zambia. He did not respond to phone calls from the New Journal. Reporters called at St Pancras Mortuary but requests for an interview were not granted.
Contacted by the Guardian newspaper after Mr Tomlinson’s post-mortem, Dr Patel said he had not been reprimanded over his work in the Sally White case.
He said: “As far as I know my findings still stand and I wasn’t criticised.”
The NPIA has already spoken to Dr Patel.
A decision about Dr Patel’s conduct will be made by the discipline committee of the Pathology Delivery Board, whose options range from no action at all, to giving advice or taking Dr Patel to a disciplinary tribunal with a potential sanction to remove him from the register.
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