Mentor and pupil had not a word for each other
They were once mentor and pupil. But yesterday, consultant Martin Corbally and Sri Paran, who learned the art of the scalpel in his company, could not make eye contact.
They were seated just feet from each other at the fitness-to-practise hearing in the Medical Council's headquarters in Dublin -- but the gulf between the two men was visible to all.
Mr Paran, who will soon be a consultant in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, working alongside the associate professor, broke down as he recalled some of the events which led to a young boy's kidney being wrongly removed.
Mr Corbally sat next to his legal team as Mr Paran became emotional while speaking of the unwritten rules between senior doctors and their juniors.
He recalled that the senior doctor to whom he deferred over what he regarded as a major operation put his fingers on the side of the child from where the kidney would be removed. Asked why he did not alter the instructions, he said it would be "frowned upon" to do something you were not told to do.
But this was a two-way process. "As a mentor not only do you train the person but you also have a job to protect that person. I trusted what I was told."
Seated at the back of the inquiry room, behind rows of legal teams, sat the parents of the eight-year-old boy, Jennifer Stewart and Oliver Conroy. They were present for each of the four day's hearings and listened as the catastrophic errors were recalled by witnesses.
When the inquiry appeared to be entering its final stages, the unexpected happened.
The fitness-to-practise committee of Dr John Monaghan, barrister Tim O'Neill and external member Annette Durkan did not reconvene after lunch and instead went into talks about throwing out the charges.
The parents had to endure the long wait before being told about the decision. They quickly drafted a dignified but heartfelt statement, which was without bitterness. It was read out by Patrick Leonard, barrister for the Medical Council.
The parents made no other comment as they left. They were commended by the committee for the manner and motivation with which they brought their case. Their sole aim was to prevent another family having to suffer the same tragedy.
And there was commendation for their son too, who the committee observed has unwittingly played a role in making medical practice safer.