Consultant sacked over pregnancy claims

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The Independent Online
Malcolm Pearce, the senior consultant involved in disputed claims over a "breakthrough" procedure to save a pregnancy, has been dismissed.

A brief statement yesterday from St George's Hospital NHS Healthcare Trust, south London, where Mr Pearce was an obstetrician said that the decision had been made at a disciplinary hearing on Thursday.

It states: "Following concerns expressed about two papers published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in August, of which Mr Pearce was first author, St George's Healthcare NHS Trust asked the principal of St George's Hospital Medical School to conduct an inquiry.

"The findings of the inquiry were considered by the Trust Board at a disciplinary hearing on 22 December. The decision taken by the Board at the end of that hearing was that Mr Pearce should be dismissed from his post with immediate effect."

A trust spokesman said that no further statement would be made. A man who answered the telephone at Mr Pearce's home yesterday said that he had no comment to make. It is not known whether or not Mr Pearce intends to contest his dismissal. As a consultanthe has the right to appeal to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health.

Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain, a fellow obstetrician at St George's Hospital and editor of the journal, resigned as president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at the beginning of this month.

Professor Chamberlain said at the time that his name had only appeared because he was head of Mr Pearce's department.

Announcing Professor Chamberlain's resignation the Royal College stated: "In view of the recent publicity surrounding the articles published in the August issue of the journal, because he wishes to avoid any possible damage to the standing of the college."

The saga that led to the dismissal of Mr Pearce, a respected senior consultant, began in August with his reports of the successful transfer of an ectopic pregnancy to the womb.

Another doctor, who has not been named, raised doubts about the authenticity of the results and St George's Hospital Medical School began an inquiry into allegations.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the foetus begins to develop in the fallopian tubes. Abortion has to be carried out. Often the tube is damaged as a result, reducing the woman's chances of a future pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies occur in about one in 200conceptions.

Almost all attempts to transfer the sac containing the foetus to the womb have failed. Only two have been recorded, both in America. The first was in 1917 and the second in 1991 when the surgeon reported a success from a transfer he had performed 11 years previously.