We fight to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

Doctor in charge of Connor Sparrowhawk’s care when he died at NHS specialist unit suspended for 12 months

22 Feb 2018

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.


You may also be interested in…

Fitness to practise medicine impaired, says medical tribunal looking into Dr Valerie Murphy in charge of Connor Sparrowhawk’s care

Dr Valerie Murphy’s fitness to practise medicine has been found to be impaired by misconduct. This was decided by a medical practitioners tribunal on Sunday 12 October.

There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment...

Question about your epilepsy?

Your question will be sent to our helpline advisors.

Have a comment about this page?

All comments are reviewed by a moderator before publishing. Comments will be edited or deleted if they are offensive, libellous, slanderous, abusive, commercial or irrelevant.

We ask for your email when you make a comment through this website. This means that we can let you know directly that we have replied to you. By making a comment through the website, you allow us to use the comment in our publicity without using your name. If we would like to use your name, we will email you to get your permission.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
3 + 14 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.