Britain: anesthetist struck off roll for ending patient's life

A consultant anesthetist who has been investigated over dozens of hospital deaths was struck off the medical register Wednesday for taking steps to end the life of a patient against his family's wishes. Dr. Ann David did not explore all options before taking "active measures" to prematurely end Robert Symons' life, a General Medical Council panel ruled at the end of a disciplinary inquiry.

A GMC panel, which looks at doctors' fitness to practice, ruled that David had taken Symons, 60, off life support hours after his wife and son expressed strong opposition to treatment being withdrawn. Panel chairman Michael Whitehouse told a full panel hearing that David was guilty of serious professional misconduct.

David, 47, from Rayleigh, north of London, was not present at the hearing.

She declined to take any further part in the proceedings after the panel refused to let her voluntarily withdraw from the medical register, which would have brought the hearing to a close before findings were announced.

The panel heard that Symons was admitted to Basildon Hospital in northeast London on Jan. 22, 1999, suffering from a severe infection. On Feb. 16, David decided that he should be taken off a ventilator because he had no chance of survival, but his wife and son said they were strongly opposed to this.

Hours later David gave Symons a high dose of sedatives and had him taken off the machine. He was dead within 20 minutes. Police have previously investigated David's role in Symons' death and those of dozens of other patients at Basildon Hospital between 1997 and 1999.

But she was not brought to trial because the Prosecution Service advised that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. A.M.