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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Baby doctor cleared of misconduct
Dr Michael Munro
The doctor was involved in baby care at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
A doctor who admitted hastening the deaths of two dying babies by injecting them with a paralysing drug has been cleared of misconduct.

Dr Michael Munro, 41, administered the drugs at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

The parents of the babies knew what he was doing, and that it would relieve their suffering - but could also hasten their deaths.

Dr Munro said after a hearing that he hoped the decision would mean more discussion on end of life decisions.

The General Medical Council (GMC) hearing ruled the doctor's fitness to practise was not impaired by his actions.

I hope that today's decision will lead to clearer professional guidance for doctors, better patient care and greater support for parents
Dr Michael Munro

The hearing had earlier heard the actions in 2005 were "tantamount to euthanasia".

Dr Munro said after the hearing: "I very much regret any distress that has been caused to the parents of both babies by these proceedings before the General Medical Council.

"I hope that today's decision will promote further consideration of the treatment of neonates and end of life decision making and that this, in turn, will lead to clearer professional guidance for doctors, better patient care and greater support for parents.

"Obviously, I am very relieved by the outcome of the fitness to practise panel hearing and I would like to thank everybody who has supported me over the last few months."

The GMC said he intended to relieve suffering rather than hasten their deaths.

The consultant neonatologist gave 23 times the normal dose of a paralysing muscle relaxant in the final moments before one baby's death.

Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
Both babies died at the Aberdeen unit in 2005

During a subsequent inquiry Dr Munro denied he had previously used the drug in similar circumstances, but it later emerged he had given it to another terminally ill baby during its final moments six months earlier.

The GMC panel, which was sitting in Manchester, concluded this was misleading but was not dishonest.

The panel also rejected claims that his actions were inappropriate and fell below standard, as there were no clear specific professional guidelines.

They rejected that in administering the paralysing agent to the children Dr Munro had fallen below the standard expected of a registered medical practitioner.

'Extend sympathies'

Both children suffered violent body spasms in the final moments of their lives - a condition known as agonal gasping.

Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, medical director NHS Grampian, said: "These incidents have been very distressing for all concerned, but most especially for the families of the two babies. We extend our sympathies to them.

Patients and families can be reassured that NHS Grampian remains absolutely confident that the quality of care in the neonatal unit is of the highest standard
Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen
NHS Grampian medical director

"The treatment given to both babies was not part of accepted practice and therefore following a thorough investigation the decision was taken to refer Dr Munro to the GMC.

"We note the findings of the panel and agree with their view that Dr Munro's actions were taken with the best interests of the babies and their families in mind."

He said that since the incidents came to light, a protocol for all "end of life" decisions has been put in place to comply with guidelines.

Dr Dijkhuizen said: "We believe these measures will avoid similar incidents arising in future.

"Patients and families can be reassured that NHS Grampian remains absolutely confident that the quality of care in the neonatal unit is of the highest standard."

The families of the two babies did not wish to comment.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Dr Michael Munro arriving at the hearing



SEE ALSO
Baby death panel dismisses claim
10 Jul 07 |  North East/N Isles
Doctor felt babies were suffering
09 Jul 07 |  North East/N Isles
Doctor 'hastened babies' deaths'
05 Jul 07 |  North East/N Isles

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