Doctor found negligent in pensioner’s death

A 40-year-old doctor from SOS Médecins, a Geneva emergency medical response service, was found guilty on Tuesday of negligence in his response to a call for help from an 89-year-old woman who ended up dying.

The woman, who suffered from dysentery, had contacted the service for aid six times on the afternoon of February 2nd 2010.

But the doctor who finally arrived at her 50-square-metre apartment told a Geneva police court that he left after only a few minutes because he could not find her.

Neighbours discovered the woman in a worrying state in her apartment the following day.

She died several hours later at the university hospital from widespread infections, the court heard in a case widely reported on by Geneva media.

“You stayed less than five minutes (at the apartment) and you don’t think that’s a bit careless?” prosecutor Stéphane Grodecki asked the emergency doctor, a French citizen who is also a specialist in sports medicine.
The doctor replied that he felt that “two, three minutes sufficed,” according to a report from the Tribune de Genève.

He said he saw all the angles of the apartment and “it was impossible not to see the woman if she was there”.

The doctor explained that he believed someone had taken charge of her.

The court learned that he issued a report saying that, based on the evidence, someone had already taken her to hospital.

The doctor returned to the SOS Médicins office to return keys for the woman’s apartment and was informed that the woman had contacted the organization again for help.

He told the court that he gave the service his report but then had to attend to other calls.

Pierre Froidevaux, the head of SOS Médicins, defended the doctor’s behaviour, the Tribune de Genève reported.
Froidevaux said that 2,000 households are linked to the service’s alarm system and that out of an average of eight calls a day, half are false emergencies.

The woman who died had a history of frequently contacting the centre because she was lonely, according to SOS Médicins.

On one occasion, fire fighters had to break down her door because she had changed the keys without notifying the service.  

Despite these explanations, the police court issued a suspended fine against the doctor amounting to 46,800 francs.

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