Written submissions to inform independent review of gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide

Written submissions to inform independent review of gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide

This questionnaire will now remain open until 10 August 2018.

Introduction to this call for written evidence

The GMC has commissioned an independent review of the issues surrounding gross negligence manslaughter (GNM) and culpable homicide (CH) in Scottish law[1] involving doctors. The review is led by Leslie Hamilton. This follows recent high profile cases[2]. The review is not seeking to change the law relating to GNM/CH or to interfere with the autonomy of the prosecuting authorities or the courts in these matters. Rather, within the parameters of the existing law and medical regulation, it is seeking to understand how the law and regulatory processes operate in this area and identify opportunities for improvement in procedures and processes which will support just decision making and the application of the law.

The review is supported by a working group. Leslie Hamilton and the working group want to inform their thinking with input from doctors and trainees on the frontline, health professional leaders, medical defence organisations, patients and the public, legal and criminal justice experts, academics, educators and employers  from across the UK who may have experience of or insight into these issues. Terms of reference for the review can be found here.

What will the review cover?

To date, much of the focus of recent cases involving GNM has been on the actions of the medical regulator, the GMC. Now, this review also needs to understand the processes and procedures that are involved in the immediate aftermath of any fatal clinical incident and the pathway leading from reporting to investigation and prosecution, as well as subsequent regulatory action. This review will not consider individual cases but it will cover the wider issues raised by them. It will not consider any changes to the law or the autonomy of the decision making of the prosecuting authorities or the courts.

Who should respond to this call for evidence?

Given the breadth of issues covered by this review, we welcome views from a wide range of individuals and organisations, including: the medical profession, patients and the public, the legal profession, police and prosecuting authorities, medical defence and other representative organisations, employers, educators, academics in the field, other regulators and any other individual or organisation with experience of, or expertise in, gross negligence manslaughter or culpable homicide. 

[1] In Scotland there is no offence of gross negligence manslaughter. The offence is involuntary culpable homicide. There has been no successful prosecution of a doctor involving this offence (which may not alleviate healthcare professionals’ fears of prosecution). Involuntary culpable homicide in the course of lawful conduct may be committed where death is caused by an act or conduct in the face of obvious risk which were or should have been appreciated and guarded against showing a complete and reckless disregard of potential dangers and consequences which might result.
[2] information about the appeal case of Dr Bawa-Garba can be found on the GMC’s website here and David Sellu, a colorectal surgeon who served half his 30 month sentence in jail and half on licence- and conviction quashed on appeal.

What will the questions cover?

The questions are grouped together by theme, so you can click through to the areas that are relevant to you and your experience:

  • What people perceive to be ‘criminal acts’ by doctors

  • The experience of patients and their families

  • Processes leading up to a criminal investigation

  • Inquiries by a coroner or procurator fiscal

  • Police investigations and decisions to prosecute

  • The professional regulatory process
A full list of the questions can be downloaded here.