Doctor cleared of poor performance
A DOCTOR whose patient collapsed and died 12 hours after complaining of chest soreness has been cleared of poor professional performance.
It had been alleged that Dr Michael J Clarke had failed to carry out or arrange adequate examinations when treating Patrick Connolly (69), who passed away on the evening of February 25, 2011.
Following a five-hour hearing, the Fitness to Practise Committee of the Medical Council concluded that there was no evidence of poor professional performance on his part.
It noted that two expert witnesses -- GP Dr Stephen Murphy and Professor Tom O'Dowd -- were satisfied that Dr Clarke's examination of the patient was adequate in all circumstances.
It was also noted that Dr Clarke had referred the patient to a neurologist.
The inquiry heard that Patrick Connolly had presented at the Market Square Surgery, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, shortly after 9am on the day of his death, complaining of soreness in his chest and neck.
His daughter Rosaleen Sweeney told the hearing that her father was in the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. He was taking medication but was otherwise in good health.
She said her father was "very distressed" prior to being seen by Dr Clarke and "kept rubbing the side of his chest and the side of his neck, rubbing the back of his head and sighing".
Dr Clarke, who has been a GP in Castleblayney since 1989 and is also a general-practice trainer, said he asked Mr Connolly a series of questions in order to clarify whether his discomfort was of a cardiac origin or some other origin.
He noted that Mr Connolly's blood-pressure records on previous visits had been normal for a man of his age and that he had not complained of symptoms such as shortness of breath or tightness in the chest.
Dr Clarke added that he conducted an examination of Mr Connolly's chest and noted gynecomastia -- a swelling of the tissue in the left breast. He did not carry out a cardiovascular examination.
He told the hearing: "In view of Mr Connolly's general wellbeing, his answers to questions and the findings of my examination, I concluded the symptoms were musculoskeletal in nature and I treated him for that."
Mr Connolly returned home but suffered a cardiac arrest later that night and was then pronounced dead.
A post-mortem showed that he had suffered a massive myocardial infarction between five and 10 days prior to his death.
Giving evidence, Dr Clarke said it was possible that the myocardial infarction may have shown up on an electrocardiogram.
However, witness Dr Murphy said that while he would have considered it "prudent" to carry out a cardiovascular examination, Mr Connolly's myocardial infarction -- which he described as "a silent heart attack" -- may not have been detected.