Doctor in overdose tragedy 'must face UK trial'

THE family of a 70-year-old man given a fatal overdose by an overseas doctor have called for him to face trial in the UK after a coroner ruled the death amounted to manslaughter.

Cambridgeshire North and East Coroner William Morris recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on David Gray yesterday and accused German doctor Daniel Ubani of gross negligence.

He also criticised out-of-hours care saying "weaknesses remain in the system". He made a string of recommendations, including the setting up of a database for foreign doctors.

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The inquest heard Ubani had failed a language test with the NHS in Leeds where he was rejected by health chiefs but passed a less strenuous test in Cornwall.

After yesterday's verdict, Mr Gray's son Stuart, himself a GP, called for Dr Ubani, who administered the fatal dose of diamorphine to his father, to face justice in a UK court.

"We want to see him tried under UK law for his death but we also want safeguards put in place nationwide to prevent this happening again."

He said he was "very satisfied" with the verdict but called for safeguards to prevent a similar tragedy.

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"Every doctor used for out-of-hours care should be properly trained for the job and every one should be able to speak English, common sense requirements which Dr Ubani failed to meet," he added.

In a damning conclusion, the coroner described Dr Ubani, 67, as "incompetent and not of an acceptable standard".

He described Dr Ubani's induction as "insufficient and inadequate" and said he was "tired out" when he started work on February 16, 2008, the day Mr Gray died.

The inquest heard Dr Ubani was working on his first out-of-hours shift in Britain and had only arrived in the country the day before.

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Mr Gray was suffering from renal colic but was given 100mg of the painkiller diamorphine – 10 times the recommended daily dose. After the lethal injection was administered, Mr Gray took Dr Ubani's hand and said "thank you". He was pronounced dead some four hours later.

Dr Ubani, who refused to attend the inquest and refused to comment on the verdict, cannot be extradited to face trial in the UK because he has already been tried in Germany over the pensioner's death.

He was charged in Germany with causing death by negligence and given a nine-month suspended sentence and a fine of 5,000 euros (4,370). He is still working at a German clinic.

The inquest heard Dr Ubani was employed by Take Care Now which was commissioned by health chiefs in Cambridgeshire to provide out-of-hours care. Its contract was ended four months early following an investigation.

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Following the verdict, Paul Zollinger-Read, chief executive of NHS Cambridgeshire, said: "We accept that the systems failed, in that someone with Dr Ubani's qualifications and experience should not have been put in a position where he was able to make this type of mistake."

Dr Graeme Kelvin, chairman of Take Care Now, added: "This is a truly, truly tragic event. We welcome all of the coroner's suggestions."

General Medical Council chief executive Niall Dickson said: "This has been a terrible tragedy and an avoidable one. The sad case highlights serious failings in a system that should protect patients."


Before 2004 GPs covered the needs of their patients at night, at weekends and on bank holidays.

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But the task was becoming increasingly onerous for GPs and most gave up responsibility for out-of-hours care when a new contract was negotiated between doctors and the Government.

Instead primary care trusts have taken over responsibility for services but a number of problems have emerged. There have been criticisms services are underfunded with too few doctors for large populations. Many doctors also have flown in from the continent to cover often highly-lucrative shifts.

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