Doctor suspended for 12 months

Published: February 22 2018
Last updated: September 27 2022

The doctor in charge of the care of Connor Sparrowhawk who drowned in the bath after having a seizure in 2013, has been suspended.

Dr Valerie Murphy was facing a medical practitioners tribunal to determine her fitness to continue to practise medicine. This is after it was found that she made a number of failings in Connor’s care during this time.

On 21 February, the tribunal ruled that Dr Murphy should face a 12-month suspension from the medical register. This means she will not be able to practise medicine in this time. Her case will be reviewed again when the 12 months are up.

Dr Murphy was in charge of 18-year-old Connor’s care at a now closed-down Southern Health specialist unit in 2013. Connor had epilepsy, autism and a learning disability. He died a few months after becoming a resident at the facility. An independent investigation some months later found that his death was preventable.

In August, Dr Murphy admitted to 30 failings in Connor’s care. A further nine failings were found proved by the tribunal.

The failings included not taking a full history of Connor’s epilepsy and seizures and not providing appropriate care plans.

An inquest found that neglect had contributed to Connor’s death.

In November, Dr Murphy’s fitness to practise medicine was found to be impaired by the tribunal. It found that she had not recognised the extent of her failings and “appeared to be looking for excuses”.

No words

After the tribunal announced its decision, Connor’s mother Dr Sara Ryan said on Twitter: “‘I really did ‘take my eye [off] the ball’ in this case. And our beautiful boy drowned. No words. #JusticeforLB”

Epilepsy Action deputy chief executive Simon Wigglesworth said: “Epilepsy Action welcomes the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) decision to suspend Dr Murphy over Connor’s completely avoidable death.

“The fact that Dr Murphy admitted to failing to carry out any risk assessments in relation to Connor’s epilepsy shows a clear and shocking failure to deliver a basic level of care and treatment for him. She also failed to take into account key guidelines, including advice from Epilepsy Action in his care plan. The remorse she has shown has sadly come too little too late for his family.

“This case highlights the importance of care plans in ensuring that epilepsy treatment and management is as safe and effective as possible. It is vital that professionals caring for people with epilepsy in care, support and treatment settings have been properly trained to fully understand the condition and all its implications. In fact, it is the very least that people with epilepsy deserve. It was clear in this case that Dr Murphy did not take Connor’s epilepsy seriously enough which led to his tragic and needless death.

“We hope that this decision will ensure that in future people with epilepsy in care get the support and treatment they need.”

An epilepsy care plan can be downloaded at the Epilepsy Action website.