G20 pathologist 'irresponsible' in other post-mortems

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The pathologist who first ruled that newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died from natural causes at the G20 protest was found today to have behaved "irresponsibly" in other post-mortem examinations.

Dr Freddy Patel, 63, was said by a General Medical Council (GMC) disciplinary panel to have failed to identify marks on the body of a five-year-old girl which suggested she had been violently attacked prior to her death.

The panel said Dr Patel's conduct was "irresponsible" and not of the standard expected of a Home Office pathologist.

He was also said to have behaved in a way which was liable to bring the profession into disrepute when he changed the cause of a woman's death to satisfy her family.

Panel chairman Richard Davies said Dr Patel's report into the death of the five-year-old girl, who was admitted to hospital with a head injury following what was said to be a "serious fall", gave no details of so-called "marks of violence".

His report said there were no "significant" marks of violence which Dr Patel told the panel meant there were no marks relevant to the child's death.

Mr Davies said: "If there were no significant marks of violence in your view, by implication there were some marks of violence."

The panel was shown evidence of marks which had been visible to the naked eye but said Dr Patel did not identify them in his report of September 17 2002 and did not comment on their possible significance.

Mr Davies said the panel considered it "probable" that Dr Patel "performed only a cursory external examination of the body".

"Had you acted differently, it is possible that you might have probed marks above the scapula (shoulder blade) which was later shown to be injured," he added.

Dr Patel was said to have been "irresponsible" and guilty of failing to meet expected professional standards when he changed the woman's cause of death.

He carried out a post-mortem examination on January 5 2005, and decided she had died due to a blood clot in the coronary arteries.

A month later, following a second post-mortem by another pathologist, he prepared an addendum to his report changing the cause of death to a brain haemorrhage in line with the new findings.

The panel said he had not adequately explained his reasons for the alteration and it was not persuaded that it had been "professionally scrupulous" to do so.

Mr Davies said Dr Patel told an inquest into the woman's death he had changed the primary cause of death "to satisfy the family".

He told the GMC panel considering his fitness to practise as a pathologist that he had not seen the haemorrhage so was not in a position to determine its effect.

Mr Davies said Dr Patel's assumption that the change made no difference from the coroner's viewpoint, as the death was not suspicious, and merely allowed an inquest to proceed was not an adequate explanation.

The panel concluded he had behaved irresponsibly, did not meet the standards expected of a Home Office pathologist and his actions were liable to bring the profession into disrepute.

The panel found that Dr Patel had also been irresponsible and failed to meet professional standards when he carried out a post-mortem examination on a four-week-old baby in August 2003.

He did not obtain full skeletal X-rays prior to the examination as recommended by the Royal College of Pathologists' guidelines.

The panel said the possibility of injury could not be excluded and it would have been "reasonable and appropriate" at that stage to give consideration to the possibility that the death might have been suspicious.

Dr Patel initially expected the case to be a cot death but found a blood clot on the baby's brain and told the coroner she needed to be re-examined more thoroughly.

The panel found allegations that Dr Patel did not take steps to preserve the clot for the second post-mortem examination were not proved.

The panel had already thrown out a number of allegations in relation to Dr Patel's conduct in a fourth post-mortem examination in 2002.

Today it decided he had not acted irresponsibly nor failed to meet professional standards in his examination of the woman's body.

The panel today gave its decisions about the facts of the case but did not decide what sanctions should be made.

Dr Patel, whose full name is Mohmed Saeed Sulema Patel, could be struck off if the panel finds his behaviour amounted to misconduct.

He has already been suspended from the Home Office register of forensic pathologists amid questions about his post-mortem examination of Mr Tomlinson.

The 47-year-old newspaper seller died during London's G20 riots in April last year after being pushed to the ground by a police officer.

Dr Patel's competency was called into question after two other pathologists agreed that Mr Tomlinson, who was an alcoholic, died as a result of internal bleeding, probably from his diseased liver, after falling on his elbow.

The shortcomings in Dr Patel's examination of Mr Tomlinson's body were revealed by prosecutors as they announced that no charges would be brought over the death.

Mr Tomlinson's family said in a statement: "We are not surprised by today's announcement.

"This raises the most serious questions about how and why Freddy Patel's appointment to carry out the vital first post-mortem on Ian could have been approved by the City of London Police, who paid part of his fee.

"No family can rest with this kind of stain hanging over the investigation of their loved one and we demand answers."

The hearing was adjourned until 10am tomorrow.

Dr Patel declined to speak to reporters as he left the hearing in London.