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Organs doctor failed to take `proper steps' Ex-director is quizzed.

Byline: Karen Attwood

A DOCTOR failed in his role as medical director at organ scandal hospital Alder Hey, the General Medical Council was told yesterday.

Dr John Martin, 68, ``took no adequate steps'' to examine the actions of Prof Dick van Velzen after he learned he had ignored parents' wishes concerning a child's post-mortem examination, the Manchester panel heard.

Dr Martin, of Llanasa in Holywell, Flintshire, who was medical director at the Liverpool hospital from 1967 until his retirement in 1997, is accused of serious professional misconduct.

The Government ordered an inquiry into the children's hospital after revelations that it and some other hospitals had removed and retained the organs of babies without telling their parents.

Prof van Velzen, head of foetal and infant pathology at the hospital, was named as being at the centre of the scanda land was suspended by the GMC in February 2001.

And rew Collender QC,for the GMC, said Dr Martin was made aware of inadequacies in the hospital's pathology service by a written report from Prof van Velzen and a letter from Dr Heather McDowell in 1991. The letter was concerned with delays in postmortem reports.

Mr Collender said: ``Dr Martin as medical director should have taken steps to act upon that information.

``The council's case is that he took no proper steps to deal with that knowledge.''

Dr Martin becameawarein 1994 that Prof van Velzen had ``ignored parents' wishes'' by not limiting a post-mortem on a 15-year-old child (patient C) as specified on the consent form.

The GMC alleges that,if Dr Martin had carried out a thorough investigation at the time of the incident, further such ``unhappy events'' could have been avoided.

Prof van Velzen's post-mortem report revealed that several organs had been removed despite the child'sparents only giving consent to a lung biopsy. This caused a ``great deal of distress'' to the parents.

Mr Collender said: ``To avoid such an event happening again, Dr Martin should have acted upon the information that Professor van Velzen had exceeded his authority.

``He should have instigated further inquiries. They would have revealed that organs had been removed from patient C and that they had been retained rather than replaced.

He added that if Dr Martin had authorised an audit of Professor van Velzen's work at the time, it would have revealed whether this was an isolated case or common practice.

``The Council's case is that Dr Martin's inaction was inappropriate,'' saidMr Collender.

The mother of patient C, referred to as Mrs C, told the hearing she had a meeting with Dr Martin in which she was told ``the pathologist had gone further than we had asked''.

Mrs C said she never received any letter of explanation from the pathologist even though Dr Martin had told her she would.

Several years later she had to have a second burial for her son when it was discovered many of his organs had been removed and retained.

In his defence, Dr Martin said although he was aware there were problems in pathology he did not deal directly with Prof van Velzen. He believed issues were being addressed by the chief executive.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.

CAPTION(S):

MISCONDUCT CHARGE: Dr John Martin after the GMC hearing in Manchester yesterday Picture: MARTIN RICKETT; BANNED: van Velzen
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2003
Words:551
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