Surgeon accused over girl's death

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The Independent Online
A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl died at Great Ormond Street Hospital when a heart procedure went "horribly wrong", the General Medical Council heard yesterday. James Taylor, a paediatric cardiologist, who was supervising the operation, did not have the parents' consent to carry out the procedure on Debbie Jenkins, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

Dr Taylor has admitted operating on Debbie without her parents' consent, but denies having been aware that the parents were opposed to the procedure whereby a balloon catheter was used to try to enlarge a narrowed artery.

He also denies having told Debbie's parents, Carolyn and Ross Jenkins, of Sprowston, Norwich, that he would not use such a procedure, and also denies not having had sufficient medical grounds to proceed without their consent.

Mr Jeffrey Burke QC told the hearing in London that Debbie was born in 1988 with a serious heart defect. Debbie had two open heart operations and in 1995 her parents noticed that she was breathless. Mrs Jenkins met Dr Taylor in July 1995 to decide whether to carry out a diagnostic operation.

Mr Burke, presenting the case against Dr Taylor, said that at the meeting between Mrs Jenkins and the doctor there was specific reference as to whether a balloon catheter would be used. Dr Taylor said he would not consider it at this stage. Mrs Jenkins, who runs the parent support group Heartline in East Anglia, was opposed to such a procedure because she thought it was risky.

Dr Taylor, who denies serious professional misconduct, also spoke to her husband before it was agreed that Debbie would undergo the diagnostic operation on 7 July.

Mrs Jenkins signed a consent form , but before signing it, she said she did not want a balloon catheter inserted. But, said Mr Burke, when Debbie was undergoing the procedure Dr Taylor realised that an artificial conduit that had been inserted into an artery during other previous surgery had become deformed and was causing a blockage in her blood flow which he realised a balloon catheter could rectify.

Mr Burke said: "He then decided despite all that had passed between him and Mr and Mrs Jenkins over the last two days and despite the absence of consent of which he was fully aware, to go ahead and proceed with a balloon catheterisation."

The balloon burst and attempts to retrieve it over the next three hours failed. The remains of the balloon blocked the artery, cutting off blood to the brain. Debbie died the next day. Dr Taylor, said the lawyer, was devastated by what happened and at one point said he was only trying to help the girl.

Mr Burke said the issue was not one of negligence but the fact that there was no consent for what he decided to do. Only if it had been an emergency would his actions have been appropriate.

Mr Burke added: "Dr Taylor, we have no doubt, is a highly qualified and highly reputed paediatrician in what is a renowned centre of excellence.

"Unhappily in the case of this child on this particular occasion we say that by acting as he did he is guilty of serious professional misconduct."