Doctor struck off after sniffing anaesthetic chemical at work

Leeds General Infirmary
Leeds General Infirmary
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A DOCTOR who inhaled chemicals at a Yorkshire hospital and collapsed whilst on duty has been struck off.

Locum anaesthetist Gabor Szabo soaked surgical gauze with isoflurane – a liquid used in general anaesthesia – and sniffed it before falling to the floor at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).

West Yorkshire Police later raided his home and found a stash of controlled drugs.

Szabo was found guilty of misconduct and immediately struck off the medical register following a Fitness to Practise hearing on Thursday.

The tribunal’s findings stated: “The panel was in no doubt that the public would be deeply concerned by a doctor inhaling substances at work which then caused him to collapse.

“Such actions bring both Doctor Szabo and the profession generally into disrepute.

“The panel considered that this is plainly a case where, given the deplorable nature of the doctor’s actions, a finding of impairment in necessary in the public interest.”

Szabo was not present or represented during the meeting, and had written to the General Medical Council to say it was because of travel expenses from his native Hungary.

Just before the incident at the LGI on November 5, 2011, one nurse said she saw Szabo ‘weaving down the corridor’ whilst holding the gauze to his nose.

Another described him doing a ‘drunken walk’ down the corridor before he ‘bounced’ off a wall and fell head first into the plastic surgeon’s office.

A male nurse said Szabo was shaking and mumbling and that his eyes were ‘rolling around in his head.’

Colleagues found that isoflurane machines in all operating theatres were empty after Szabo had been caught inhaling the anaesthetic in the porter’s coffee room.

A week before his collapse at the LGI, Szabo was involved in a similar incident at Northwick Park Hospital in London whilst attempting to anaesthetise a 14-year-old patient.

In a witness statement, the patient’s brother saw Szabo sniff from a tissue before falling towards a wall with his hand ‘stuck’ against his nose.

A nurse said she saw Szabo looking ‘dazed, flushed and strange’ before staggering towards the patient.

The panel meeting rejected Szabo’s claims that he had fainted as he was sneezing and was suffering from a bad cold and jet lag.

In relation to the drugs found by police at his home in December 2011, Szabo maintained that they were either his own antibiotics, drugs he had forgotten to dispose of properly, pharmaceutical samples or were old and had been bought in Hungary.

But the panel concluded that Szabo had taken propofol from work without getting the necessary permission to do so.

The panel labelled the doctor’s actions as ‘disgraceful’, adding: “The trust a patient places in an anaesthetist is absolute.

“The panel takes a very serious view of such reckless endangerment of a patient’s life.

“Doctor Szabo breached a fundamental tenet of the medical profession when he placed his own interests above the safety and well-being of his patient.”

They added: “Doctor Szabo has maintained throughout that he never inhaled a substance at work that caused him to collapse.

“He has made no apology for his behaviour, the risk he caused patients, the concern of his colleagues or the misuse of hospital property.

“Such a total lack of insight, couple with the fact that Doctor Szabo’s role as an anaesthetist would give him daily access to the drugs he has misused, led the panel to conclue that it is likely that he will repeat his misconduct.”

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post after the hearing this week, a spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals said: “The safety of our patients is our top priority so we have zero tolerance of this completely unacceptable type of behaviour.”

As a result of the panel’s recent hearing, Szabo will now have his name erased from the Medical Register.