The value of discretionary indemnity is highlighted in this criminal case which was investigated overseas.
The case involved an alleged delay in diagnosis of a pulmonary embolus in patient Ms Long*, who collapsed and died four days after being seen by Dr Clarkson.
A clinical negligence claim was brought by Ms Long’s widower against the NHS Trust involved, which was settled by the Trust.
Dr Clarkson was asked to produce a report for an internal hospital enquiry. Some systemic failings were identified but nothing significant involving Dr Clarkson.
Ms Long, however, was a foreign national. Two years later, a relative made a complaint to the court in their country of origin, which prompted a criminal investigation under law that approximates to the UK’s gross negligence manslaughter, although the bar to criticism is much lower.
What happened next?
Dr Clarkson contacted Medical Protection and we exercised discretion to assist.
Dr Clarkson was interviewed by the investigator and a conclusion was imminent, but on the advice of a local advocate working for Medical Protection, an appeal was lodged, partly to ensure the case would be heard where there is more expertise.
The appeal judge then ruled that the case should never have been investigated but, as it had, should now be dismissed. He ruled that it failed to meet the threshold for prosecution against Dr Clarkson, because there had been multiple factors contributing to the death of Ms Long.
Due to the circumstances of the case, and despite the care being provided in the UK, an investigation into our member’s clinical actions, Dr Clarkson*, was instigated overseas.
How it ended
Dr Jonathan Bernstein, the medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection who handled the case, said:
“This was an excellent outcome for our member Dr Clarkson, and a decision that I understand is one rarely given in that jurisdiction after such a long investigation. It has been a difficult and stressful few years for Dr Clarkson, but we stood by her throughout and provided reassurance and support.
“The case also highlights the value of Medical Protection’s discretionary indemnity. We were absolutely determined to continue fighting for Dr Clarkson and through the flexibility of our discretionary approach, we were able to do just that.”
Medical Protection does not normally assist with legal processes in countries where we do not operate – unless members are also indemnified in that country – but we used our discretion to assist Dr June Clarkson in what was an unusual case.
Each case is unique and so is reviewed on an individual basis on whether our discretionary model can support it. We actively encourage members to contact us as soon as possible for advice to provide peace of mind and to help prevent a concern or problem escalating.
By Dr Jonathan Bernstein, Medicolegal Consultant at Medical Protection
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*Names and locations have been changed to protect member confidentiality.