The widow of a doctor who took his own life is to be supported by the BMA in her claim against her husband’s former employer, and the General Medical Council, for negligence and under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act – the right to life.
The BMA also hopes that the case will raise awareness of the risks of suicide and self-harm and the responsibilities that institutions and others have to identify any doctor who may be at risk.
Dr Sridharan Suresh, a Consultant anaesthetist at the Consultant Anaesthetist at the University Hospital of North Tees, took his own life in May 2018 after being suspended from by the Trust the previous month for an initial period of two weeks. He was under investigation by Cleveland police after a patient claimed Dr Suresh had sexually abused her. The description she gave to the police of her attacker did not match Dr Suresh; the police later dropped the case due to insufficient evidence.
Senior managers at the Trust told Dr Suresh he was not under investigation and that they’ fully supported him.’ He was also told he would not be referred to the GMC; but the police did refer him. At least two senior managers at the hospital - medical and administrative - knew the police had done this but failed to tell Dr Suresh, despite knowing the action had been taken. Managers at the Trust were also aware that Dr Suresh was distraught by the allegations against him and concerned about his future. Within hours of receiving a letter from the GMC, Dr Suresh took his own life
Now the BMA is supporting Dr Suresh widow and her children in legal action against both the trust and the GMC. A letter before action has been sent to the GMC, from the BMA appointed lawyers. It says the GMC should have known there was a real and immediate risk of suicide, and that there were system failures after the GMC failed to take any steps to liaise with Dr Suresh’s employer or the police to assess his vulnerabilities, despite Dr Suresh telling his trust how the investigations were affecting him and his family.
A letter before action has also been sent to the University Hospital of North Tees; the letter will say the trust’s failings contributed to Dr Suresh’s decision to take his own life. It will say the trust owed him a duty of care and breached that by wrongly informing Dr Suresh that he would not be referred to the GMC, failing to update Dr Suresh or their medical director when the police made a referral to the GMC and failing to take steps to protect Dr Suresh’s mental health in light of those developments.
The letter says the trust could have put appropriate measures in place to provide further support to Dr Suresh, including a more interventionist approach where counselling and occupational health could have been arranged.
Notes to editors
For more details on the case, go to the BMA’s website
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.