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15 May 2014, 12:41
A junior doctor in Essex who mistakenly removed an ovary from a pregnant woman who later died has been allowed to carry on practising by a medical watchdog.
Mother-of-three Maria De Jesus, 32, was 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when she was admitted to Queen's Hospital in Romford, Essex, suffering from suspected appendicitis.
The "complicated'' operation was carried out at the weekend by junior surgeon Yahya Al-Abed, who removed her ovary in error, while the more senior consultant had gone home.
Less than three weeks later, on November 7 2011, she was readmitted suffering abdominal pains, but she miscarried her baby boy and died on the operating table four days later.
Mr Al-Abed, a fifth-year trainee surgeon who had worked for the hospital for less than three weeks, admitted to a catalogue of mistakes when he came before the Fitness to Practise Panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service last month.
He denied misconduct but admitted he failed to realise he had taken out the ovary rather than the appendix, did not tell his seniors he had little experience carrying out the operation on pregnant women, and failed to get supervision from a consultant surgeon during the operation.
But despite admitting to the error which eventually cost Ms De Jesus her life, the panel ruled that he can continue to practise as a surgeon.
They have, however, imposed a range of restrictions to tighten supervision of the doctor, including having all his operations supervised by a consultant or doctor of equivalent seniority, and the appointment of a mentor.
The disciplinary hearing had been told that Mr Al-Abed had demonstrated a "cavalier attitude'' by failing to ensure his supervising consultant was called to the operating room to help him, and allowing a junior doctor assist him in the operation.
But the panel said it listened to evidence the doctor had been left "out on a limb'' due to the system he was operating in and decided it was in the public's interest to keep the surgeon on NHS books.
Giving their written decision, they said: "The panel accepted that you are genuinely remorseful about your failings.
"Regardless of subsequent events and the tragic outcome for Patient A (Maria De Jesus) this case has clearly had a profound personal impact upon you.
"It has been both a salutary lesson and a deeply humbling experience which will stay with you for the rest of your life. The evidence before the panel indicated that the deep and lasting impact upon you is such that you are highly unlikely to practise in a way which poses an unwarranted risk to your patients in the future.''
Mr Babatunde Coker, the consultant on call that weekend, admitted failing in his role by not carrying out the operation himself or overseeing the surgery by the registrar, although he denied misconduct.
The panel heard Mr Coker had seen Ms De Jesus when she was first admitted to the hospital on October 21 2011, when an appendectomy was recommended.
The mother-of-three was put on the emergency surgery list, but said she would speak to her husband before giving consent for the operation.
Mr Coker went to the coffee room while waiting for Ms De Jesus to give consent. Having heard nothing back, he went home after agreeing Mr Al-Abed would carry out the procedure. He failed to check if the surgery had been carried out in his absence.
The panel ruled he had "failed to appropriately undertake your role as consultant surgical lead'', but ruled he could also continue practising, subject to greater supervision and the appointment of a mentor.
Mr Coker's registration conditions last for a period of 12 months, and conditions on Mr Al-Abed's registration last for 18 months.