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Fiona Horlick QC secures acquittal in manslaughter case against her anaesthetist client

Fiona Horlick QC represented one of one consultant anaesthetists accused of gross negligence manslaughter following the death of a patient after an operation at Nobles Hospital on the Isle of Man. The case was dismissed.

Fiona’s client, Dr Katherine Teare, had responded to an emergency alarm and assisted trying to revive a patient after he suffered a cardiac arrest in theatre. The prosecution case was that another anaesthetist, who had been the anaesthetist for the operation, had tried to wake the patient up after the operation, had removed the endotracheal tube and then had to reinsert it when the patient was struggling to breath and in doing so allegedly wrongly placed it in the oesophagus instead of the trachea depriving the patient of oxygen. Fiona’s client was accused, along with the operative anaesthetist and two other consultants who came to help, in failing to recognise signs that the tube was in the wrong place.

The man died at Noble’s Hospital on 4 February 2021.

The evidence

The defendants took the very unusual approach, still available under Manx law, of contesting the committal proceedings on the basis that there was insufficient evidence against them to commit for trial.

The case could only be heard in the higher court, and Fiona was granted a licence to practice on the Isle of Man for this case. Following written and oral argument which took place in front of a Deputy High Bailiff on 27th April, the Judge said that he could not see how a jury could find the actions of the medics to have amounted to gross negligence. He agreed that there was insufficient evidence to commit for trial and all four defendants were discharged.

All four anaesthetists are now continuing in their roles “in line with guidance from the General Medical Council”.

Fiona was instructed by Hannah Stephenson at Hempsons.

Find out more

This trial has been reported by BBC News.

Fiona Horlick QC is one of a small cohort of QCs who have both extensive criminal and regulatory experience representing professional clients, notably in the health sector. 

Fiona is known in the directories as ‘at the top of the list of very able barristers for medico legal matters’ with regard to medical crime. She has co-written the chapter on Prosecuting Health Professionals in the Oxford University Press book Witness Testimony in Sexual Cases: Evidential, Investigative and Scientific Perspectives.

To find out more, contact Paul Barton +44 (0)20 7427 4907 or Ben Fitzgerald on +44 (0)20 7758 4759 for a confidential discussion.

News, Disciplinary & Regulatory 10 May, 2022

Authors

Fiona Horlick KC

Call: 1992 Silk: 2019

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