Doctor guilty after girl, 10, dies at dentist

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A CONSULTANT anaesthetist was yesterday found guilty of serious professional misconduct after a 10-year-old girl died at a dentist's surgery.

Dr Tapas Kumar Basu failed to follow basic guidelines in a routine operation on Katie Dougal and made inadequate attempts to resuscitate her when she collapsed, the General Medical Council said.

The verdict will renew patients' fears about the safety of general anaesthetics given outside hospitals. Guidelines for dentists were tightened after a series of deaths in which dentists, acting as their own anaesthetists, failed to monitor the heart rate and breathing of their patient as they operated.

Dr Basu was a consultant anaesthetist called to assist at an operation on Katie, of Breaston, in Derbyshire, in January 1996 after a school playground fall in which she broke two front teeth. Her mother took her to the dental surgery in Long Eaton, Derbyshire immediately after the accident and was told by her dentist, Mark Duckmanton, to bring her back the next day.

Dr Basu, who attended the surgery to give her a general anaesthetic, said it would be no more than a "cat's scratch". But he failed to monitor her heart rate on an electrocardiogram (ECG) and failed to use a capnograph to monitor carbon dioxide levels, because it was broken.

There was a working capnograph in the practice's second surgery, which was not in use. The GMC heard that he had also ignored three sets of dental anaesthetic guidelines with which he had failed to familiarise himself.

When the girls heart-rate dropped, he ventilated her lungs but failed to use a defibrillator to re-start her heart. That was left to the ambulance men who were called to the surgery arriving after eight minutes. They used the defibrillator seven times to deliver shocks to her heart but it was too late. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

The GMC's professional conduct committee yesterday found that Dr Basu, 59, failed to react "adequately" to the emergency, did not use the correct monitors during the operation and had not kept up to date with the latest developments in his field.

However, Dr Basu, who now works at Neath General Hospital in West Glamorgan, escaped being struck off the Medical Register. Instead the council imposed a three-year condition on his registration restricting him to work with adult patients in hospital, where there are back-up staff and facilities.

Sir Herbert Duthie, chairman of the committee, said: "Trust lies at the heart of the doctor-parent relationship. Patients, and in the case of children, their parents, entrust doctors with their lives and wellbeing.

"They expect, and are entitled to expect, that doctors will keep their medical knowledge and skills in the speciality in which they are practising up to date and that they will act appropriately in an emergency. The facts found proved against you show that you failed to provide an adequate standard of practice in this tragic case."

Katie's mother, Patricia Dougal, earlier told the hearing how she squeezed her daughter's hand as Dr Basu gave her an injection.

"He said it would be like a cat's scratch and she was talking about her two cats. I was rubbing the back of her hand and she went to sleep."

Ms Dougal said she then went into a side room and did not realise anything was wrong until she heard a buzzer alarm 15-20 minutes later.

Dr Basu refused to comment.