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Rao v General Medical Council [2002] UKPC 65

Negligence - Medical practitioner of 25 years’ standing - Borderline case of professional misconduct - Legal Assessor misdirected Professional Conduct Committee as to what constituted serious professional misconduct - Something more than single incident of negligence required

31 January 2003

In 1989 P suffered a serious back injury and was subsequently diagnosed with cervical spondylosis. His incapacity caused him severe depression and he was prescribed Diazepam and Dihydrocodeine. On 29 December 1998 P appeared very drowsy, was slurring his speech and his tongue was falling out of his mouth. When his wife checked on him at 10.15 that evening she found that his lips and fingers were blue, he was lying in an awkward position, and he was breathing noisily. At 10.30 she called Wrexham General Practice Out-of Hours Co-Operative and was put through to Dr Rao who was at the time a registered medical practitioner of some 25 years’ standing. The conversation lasted between 2 and 5 minutes. Dr Rao reassured P’s wife that P’s condition was not serious. That night P died of respiratory depression and accidental drug overdose. The essence of the complaint made against Dr Rao was that he had failed to give adequate and appropriate advice and that he should have visited or arrange...

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