Portslade paramedic struck off for failing to help dying man

Posted On 30 Sep 2010 at 11:00 pm

A paramedic from Portslade has been struck off for failing to help a man who had a heart attack and then lying about it afterwards.

Karl Harris, 46, of Tophill Close, Portslade, was jailed earlier this year over the same incident for perverting the course of justice.

His 12-month prison sentence – imposed in March – was for lying about why he failed to try to resuscitate 30-stone Barry Baker.

Harris told his managers that Mr Baker, 59, had already died by the time he and trainee technician Ben Stokes arrived at Mr Baker’s home in Braybon Avenue, Patcham.

Harris has now been struck off by the Health Professions Council (HPC) after a hearing which he did not attend.

Mr Baker went into cardiac arrest shortly after Harris arrived at his home in Brighton on 29 November 2008.

At Harris’s trial the court was told that Mr Baker had called an ambulance after experiencing breathing difficulties at his home in the early hours.

Harris told the court he had arrived at the house but a large amount of clutter surrounding Mr Baker had prevented him and Mr Stokes from moving and resuscitating him.

The jury was told that Harris had told his colleague not to attempt resuscitation because he believed that Mr Baker was already dead.

Post-mortem tests found that Mr Baker’s weight and a thrombosis of the legs led to the cardiac arrest which killed him.

Mr Stokes was not charged although the South East Coast Ambulance Service placed him on restricted duties after the incident.

A panel of members of the HPC’s Conduct and Competence Committee dealt with Harris’s case.

The panel said: “The panel has heard the tape recording of the patient’s call which carried on after the crew arrived.

“It is quite clear that the patient was alive upon the arrival of the crew.

“It follows that the patient collapsed after the crew attended and after they had spoken.

“There was a clear duty on the part of Mr Harris to offer emergency treatment to a patient collapsing in these circumstances.

“That is so even when the large size of the patient and the patient’s home circumstances made treatment difficult.

“Yet nothing was done.

“And Mr Harris repeatedly lied after the event, in conversations, documents and interviews, stating that he had found the patient to be already dead when he entered the premises.

“The criminal offence with which Mr Harris was charged and convicted arose because his dishonest account would have been relevant to the inquest to be conducted by the coroner.

“The panel is satisfied that the conviction has been proved.

“Witnessing a patient’s collapse and doing nothing is clear misconduct.

“The totality of Mr Harris’s behaviour, comprising as it does both the failing to treat misconduct and the conviction, is such that his fitness to practise is currently impaired.

“This is because it is behaviour of the most grave nature going to the core of the professional obligations to offer proper care and to be candid about what did and did not happen.

“The panel approaches the issue of sanction on the basis that a sanction is not to be imposed to punish, but should only be imposed to protect members of the public and to maintain confidence in the registered profession and in the HPC’s regulatory function.

“Mr Harris’s conduct went to the core of direct patient care and his subsequent behaviour undermined his own credibility and compromised that of the paramedic profession.

“In these circumstances it is not appropriate to impose a caution order, impose conditions of practice or to impose a suspension order.

“Only the making of a striking-off order will sufficiently protect the public and underline the fact that behaviour of this nature will not be tolerated.”

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