Jean-Louis Megnien: Paris surgeon’s suicide sparks investigation into hospital 'bullying'

Family claims two years of hospital bullying drove heart specialist to jump to his death

John Lichfield
Paris
Friday 01 January 2016 00:56 GMT
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Jean-Louis Megnien spoke of being humiliated
Jean-Louis Megnien spoke of being humiliated

A criminal investigation has started into the death of a brilliant French heart surgeon who threw himself from a seventh-floor window at a leading Paris hospital.

Although there is no doubt that Professor Jean-Louis Megnien, 54, took his own life, police are investigating allegations by his wife and others that he was driven to despair by “bullying” behaviour at the hospital.

The death of Professor Megnien, a father of five, is being treated as “suspicious” by police. The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened a preliminary criminal investigation into allegations of bullying.

It is alleged that the suicide of the cardiologist, soon after he returned from extended medical leave, followed two years of quarrels at the Georges Pompidou hospital.

His death has sent shock waves through the French medical establishment. Dr Bernard Granger, a psychiatrist and supervisory board member of the Paris hospital service, said: “Jean-Louis Megnien was the victim of abusive behaviour, possibly amounting to bullying.”

French media claim that Professor Megnien’s death, just before Christmas, raises questions of a “clan war” between rival doctors at the top of the medical system.

Professor Megnien apparently believed that he was denied a rightful promotion to head of the hospital’s cardiology service in 2013.

When a colleague was appointed to the post instead, Professor Megnien was reportedly promised that it would “rotate” to him after a couple of years.

Instead, according to documents leaked to a news website, he was reportedly accused of being “mentally unstable” and making “homophobic” comments – which he adamantly denied.

In April last year, he was reportedly told that his office was being moved from the prestigious seventh floor of the hospital to an obscure part of the second floor. He complained that this was a “humiliation and a punishment” and that he was being placed in a “cupboard” where he was cut off from his patients.

Professor Megnien agreed to take nine months’ medical leave but on returning last month he allegedly found that the locks on his old seventh-floor office had been changed. He called a locksmith to open the door and, several days later, jumped to his death.

His wife and friends have told investigators that administrators failed to take appropriate action over emails from Professor Megnien which, it is claimed, indicated that he was considering suicide.

On the contrary, officials said, Professor Megnien was allowed to take leave while efforts were made to resolve the dispute amicably.

Martin Hirsch, the head of the Paris state hospital service, has promised an internal investigation to examine whether the doctor’s death was caused by “conflicts within the establishment”. Dr Granger said that such an investigation should be independent.

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