Bogus doctor 'could have done more to save patient'

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The Independent Online
A SENIOR nurse yesterday described the marked deterioration of an elderly woman who died hours after being placed in the care of a bogus doctor.

Joanne Hastings told the Old Bailey that she believed Matthew Blafman, 33, a former US army paramedic who had lied about his qualifications to get a job as doctor a few weeks earlier, could have done more for Jessie Harris, 78, when she was admitted to St George's Hospital, Hornchurch, Essex, last October suffering from hypothermia.

Brian Barker QC, for the prosecution, described Mr Blafman as a 'sham and an imposter' and said he caused Mrs Harris's death through gross negligence.

Mr Blafman denies manslaughter.

While bronchial pneumonia and Parkinson's disease were cited as the cause of death, Mr Barker said the exact cause was not known because she was cremated before anyone questioned Mr Blafman's true identity. There was no post-mortem examination.

Ms Hastings said Mrs Harris was dehydrated and confused when she took over the late shift at St George's. Mrs Harris had been admitted earlier that day. She had spent most of the previous night on her bedroom floor after collapsing at her home in Dagenham, east London.

Ms Hastings said that notes from the casualty department said Mrs Harris was suffering from hypothermia and a chest infection. But Mr Blafman, the doctor on call, did not order any medical treatment after examining her.

She said: 'I think there should have been more done for her. She should have had a drip and some antibiotics . . .'.

By the evening Mrs Harris was 'hot, clammy and sweating profusely and in a lot of distress' although her temperature was normal. That afternoon she had been 'very healthy looking and quite with it'.

Ms Hastings said: 'She was quite poorly and was becoming more dehydrated and all we were allowed to do was to encourage her take fluids.'

Mr Blafman was summoned by Ms Hastings when a blood test revealed a 'very high' sugar level although Mrs Harris was not thought to be diabetic. Mr Blafman ordered the injection of five units of insulin which appeared to be working when Ms Hastings shift ended at 8pm. Mrs Harris died a few hours later. Under cross-examination, Dr Robert Fowler, the consultant who signed the certificate for cremation, told Anne Curnow QC, for the defendant, that while there were medical measures Mr Blafman should have taken, the speed with which Mrs Harris died made him doubt that the treatments would have made any difference. The case continues today.