I want to write this post as close as possible to giving evidence at the General Medical Council (GMC) tribunal investigating Dr Murphy’s fitness to practice. To capture the essence and rawness of the experience.
The unnecessary and unchecked brutality. And destruction.
It’s a pretty and long detailed account. That is writing trauma.
[I also acknowledge our GMC solicitor and colleagues who have done what they can to try to ease this journey.]
Weeks of dread led to Rich and I setting off to Manchester (earlier than planned) by train on Monday. Summer holiday travel. Young kids and families. Excitement and crisps.
Our summer has been blighted by the timing of this tribunal.
Rosie decided to come too after I was unable to speak to her on the phone on Sunday evening (after writing this post). I simply couldn’t speak.
Stirring up the horror of what happened four years ago now is, as you’d expect, deeply distressing. LB died. He died. The shite we accepted or were made to endure back in the day is harrowing. And increasingly baffling as we grow further from the cosh of typical learning disability offerings.
Following the @JusticeforLBGMC twitter feed on the train we were surprised when Dr Murphy accepted 28-30 of the allegations raised. Not the Dr Murphy we’d so far come across. With so few allegations left to deal with our thoughts turned to the apology I would probably receive when giving evidence the next day. An apology four years in the making. But an apology.
The next morning, we gathered in the hotel minutes from where the tribunal was being held. George and Charlotte left for the tribunal just before 9.30am. I switched my internet off. Witnesses are not allowed to hear witness evidence and LB’s neurologist was due to give evidence before me. Rich, Rosie and I sat around. Anxious and agitated. Rosie followed the twitter feed passing her phone to Rich every so often. It’s fine, they said. Looking grim. The GMC solicitor called to say the 10.30am start for my evidence was looking on time.
Rich answered the phone. I was on the toilet. Again.
We walked up the road. A couple of men with television cameras at their feet were outside the building chatting. On the 7th floor, we were shown to an inevitably bleak witness room. The GMC solicitor and barrister came in and described what to expect.
We waited. There was an unexpected delay of about 45 minutes as the tribunal panel questioned the first witness.
We flicked through photos of LB on Rosie’s phone.
“Look at that baguette he’s holding!” [sob]
Then it was time. The clerk took us into the tribunal room (left). Rich and Rosie sat in the public bit at the back while I was taken to a large desk facing the tribunal panel. It had a white arch level file with over 1000 pages of documentation, glass of water and microphone. Before sitting I had to read an oath from a laminated coloured sheet. I couldn’t read it without crying. I couldn’t at LB’s inquest. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s such a stark reminder of the horror that is this (public sector generated) experience and the layers of utter shite that have been woven through it since.
The panel chair introduced the people around the table. The GMC barrister checked I’d signed and re-read my two statements which were in the front of the white file. Then it was over to Dr Murphy’s barrister, Mr P.
There was no apology. Our naive optimism was instantly crushed. Mr P asked me to turn to page x in the file and began a meticulous questioning that involved turning backwards and forwards between my two statements in the front of the file and medical records 700 or so pages towards the back of it.
He had a skimpy pile of the relevant pages laid out in front of him. He didn’t have to lob wedges of 1000+ pages backwards and forwards over a metal lever arch file bridge and leaf through numerous pages to find the relevant page, and section of text.
Briefly scanning through pages of painful words about LB’s horrific last few months.
His lightness of documentation and organisation of the ‘cross-examination’ meant he effortlessly lined up question after question after question. I felt I was being repeatedly sliced open with such a sharp knife there was no trace left on the blade.
“If you could turn to page x… Dr J is summarising his thoughts here, in this paragraph. Did he share them with you?”
“He made a phone call to Dr M. Can you remember how long that call lasted?”
“Turning back to page y. Do you recall Dr Murphy introducing herself in this meeting? In your statement on page j, you said…”
“If you could turn to page z of your statement. CTM meetings were held every Monday, you describe them as 10min meetings. Dr Murphy recalls the meetings being much longer…”
“Turning to page a, another meeting you did not attend, the notes state…”
A masterclass in something.
Over time, photos can become defining memories of particular events as the broader context fades away. Under Mr P’s questioning, on the 7th floor of that imposing building on Oxford Street, Manchester, LB’s medical notes became photo-like. It became impossible to think about and answer the questions that kept coming. To think beyond the words I was being directed to on different pages at different ends of the lever arch file. My heart started to thud so hard and erratically I thought it would knock me off the chair. Black edges creeping around my vision made it harder to find or read the notes. I became fearful of fainting and began to doubt my ability to answer questions truthfully.
“I don’t remember.” “I’m not sure.” “I just don’t know…”
Mr P continued asking questions. Apparently at ease with an approach that unsettles, distracts and confuses. Seemingly oblivious to my distress. No one intervened. I had no representation.
“On page j of your statement you describe Dr M as dismissive, arrogant and distant. Do you think that’s a fair assessment of Dr M’s conduct or is it coloured by what happened?”
“It might be coloured by what happened but I was expecting a knight in shining armour from a lead consultant who would do something.”
“It’s very upsetting for Dr Murphy to hear any patients’ relative describe her as such…”
Something stopped. An almost powerpoint presentation (and I fucking hate powerpoint) started to run through my mind. LB holding a giant piece of baguette on holiday. The indescribable pain of his death. What we’ve endured over the past four years. Dr Murphy suddenly admitting 30 odd failures in LB’s care a day earlier. Rich and Rosie sitting behind me listening to this inhumane and barbaric form of questioning with no recourse to action.
I gripped the edge of the table and asked the panel chair for a break.
The clerk took me to a room on the other side of the building. By this time, I was sobbing and repeatedly asking “How could they do this?” without expecting an answer. She was very kind but couldn’t ‘talk’ to me. I was left on my own with a glass of water and tissues for five minutes. There are no words for how I felt. They don’t exist.
Walking back towards the tribunal room with the clerk the blackness came back and I briefly stumbled. ‘Do not pass out’ I steeled myself. The thought of delaying this foul process was too awful to imagine. There was a delay before going back into the room as the tribunal were deliberating something. I stood in a section of the corridor with Dr Murphy and her legal team. Rich, Rosie and other members of the public were waiting in a different section of the corridor. I stared out of the window. Half seeing the Manchester skyline, Oxford Road rail station. The clock tower. Grey and threatening skies.
We were allowed back in the room.
Mr P started:
“I was asking about personality side of things and dynamics and wanted to ask you a little about your blog…”
And so it went on. The same questions that had been asked, answered and dismissed during LB’s inquest. Pages to manoeuvre. Notes to look at. Mr P didn’t miss a beat.
After two hours it was finally over. We left the building ignoring the television cameras outside and walked back to the hotel.
I can’t make any sense of experiencing harm in a medical tribunal. One held to explore the fitness to practice of our son’s responsible clinician. How on earth can this be possible and apparently acceptable?
And Mr P? You have taken crapshite to a new low.
Postscript: After Valerie Murphy spent the entire day giving evidence (well worth a catch up at @JusticeforLBGMC with a blood pressure warning for being chillingly shit) it became clear my evidence contributed nothing to the defence case. Nothing whatsoever. It was the equivalent of a kicking down a dark alley by a gang of thugs.