Doctor guilty of hate-mail campaign against surgeon

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The Independent Online
A JUNIOR doctor who waged a hate-mail campaign against a surgeon at his hospital was found guilty of serious professional misconduct yesterday and suspended for 12 months.

Dr Bhuban Choudhury, 51, sent a series of "spiteful and hurtful" anonymous letters to patients of a thoracic consultant surgeon, Joe Rahamim, whom he blamed for the controversial sacking of his friend and colleague at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Mr Narendra Bhatnagar.

In the letters he claimed that operations had gone wrong - and in one case warned a wife: "You might have realised [your husband] is not going to get better. He is going downhill every day until he dies."

A General Medical Council committee ruled that Dr Choudhury was guilty of serious professional misconduct and had undermined the confidence of patients and their families in the treatment they had received. The committee chairman, Sir Herbert Duthie, said the suspension was given "in view of the distress you caused to patients and the totally unacceptable manner in which you acted".

But two of the patients who had received anonymous letters criticised the committee for handing out too light a penalty. Peter Bentley, of Barnstaple, Devon, said: "Having been found guilty of all the things he has done, 12 months' suspension is ridiculous."

Mr Bentley was operated on in 1993 by Mr Rahamim to remove his thyroid and a lump in his chest. At a follow-up appointment in 1994, the surgeon told him that he did not need further operations, yet Dr Choudhury told Mr Rahamim that the surgeon's decision was wrong and that there had been complications.

The committee heard that Mr Bhatnagar, another thoracic surgeon at the Devon hospital, was sacked in August 1995, after recommending to the local National Health Service trust that three of Mr Rahamim's patients should be moved to another hospital.

Dr Choudhury, who had been present at many of the operations, sent two letters to patients named in Mr Bhatnagar's recommendation days later and the others the day after he left the hospital in December 1995. "The patients have a right to know," he told the hearing.

Corinne Farrell, head of communications at the Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust, said: "The trust investigated the allegations and found them to be false." However, the committee heard that the Department of Health had ordered an independent investigation into the thoracic department at Derriford - the conclusions of which have yet to be published.

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