Doctor failed to properly assess woman just hours before she killed her son

2:08pm Friday 28th March 2014

A DOCTOR failed to ensure a psychotic woman was properly assessed before leaving hospital, just hours before she killed her two-year-old son, a tribunal ruled today (Friday, March 28).

But the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service cleared Dr Clement Agbatar of failing to detain Melanie Ruddell, accepting that he did not have the power to section the patient under the Mental Health Act.

Mrs Ruddell arrived at the University Hospital of Hartlepool by ambulance in August 2010 after being persuaded to attend by family and friends.

But she discharged herself and returned to her brother’s home at West Rainton, near Durham City, where she later strangled and stabbed her son Christy. She then went to Peterlee Police Station carrying the toddler’s lifeless body.

The misconduct hearing, sitting in Manchester, found Dr Agbatar had failed to take account of the ambulance record, failed to adequately assess Mrs Ruddell, referred to as Patient M, and failed to ensure she was assessed by the crisis team.

Panel chair Dr Susan O’Connor said: "Although you correctly referred Patient M to the crisis team, you had a duty to ensure that the assessment was carried out.

"You knew at the point that Patient M took her own discharge that an assessment was not going to be carried out at Hartlepool A&E department.

"Furthermore, you cancelled any further assessment by the crisis team. The panel considers this to be a culpable failing as Patient M was presenting with hallucinations and delusions."

Dr Agbatar had claimed that he did not make a diagnosis, but the panel found there was sufficient evidence to indicate psychosis, as was suggested by his referral to the crisis team.

The case was brought by the General Medical Council (GMC), which alleged that Dr Agbatar had failed to detain the patient under the Mental Health Act.

But the doctor insisted he did not have the power to have her sectioned, and the panel agreed, clearing him of the charge.

The panel must now decide if any of his actions amounted to misconduct and if his fitness to practise is impaired as a result.

But, making submissions by telephone today, Dr Agbatar told the panel he was ‘aggrieved’ by the findings and added: "I’m not impaired in any way, but I do not intend to practice anymore because I am so annoyed about it.

"I’m so angry about it I don’t want to participate anymore and I want to apply to the GMC to take my name of the medical register."

The hearing is expected to last until April 4.

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