This week saw the conclusion into the Fitness to Practice Tribunal for Dr Valerie Murphy, the psychiatrist and lead clinician responsible for the “care” of Connor Sparrowhawk whilst he was in the STATT Unit. The determination was reached last November: this week’s hearing was to apply the sanction.
Following the live tweeting of the three days was too hideous for words. But the worst was kept until last. Dr Murphy escaped with a year’s suspension (She has given up her license in the UK and now works in Cork, so heaven only knows whether the sanction will have any effect). The Tribunal statement included a paragraph on “mitigating circumstances” and had the outrageous sentence “in the difficult world of adult learning difficulties”. To read such institutional disablism from a medical tribunal is truly shocking.
Much has been uncovered, written about and discussed since these proceedings began but this morning, Sara Ryan posted the following tweet:
Put aside the system failures. Put aside the need for lessons to be learned and a culture change. Put aside the litany of gross failings that the tribunal found in Dr Murphy’s practice.
Just supposing the core of this horror is that Dr Murphy had taken a dislike to Sara. Connor died because the responsible clinician didn’t like his mother.
For what it is worth, I think Sara is right. I think a handsome, talented, unique young man died because of the lead officers vanity and ego. Most of the evidence at the tribunal when stripped right back has rested on her narcissistic arrogance. Most of the behaviour of her counsel stemmed from her impossible ego.
There’s lots of other evidence to suggest that this happens. I would suggest you dip into some of the discussions about the case of Dr Bawa Garba on social media. I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the case but the behaviour of some of the medical people towards the non medics has been appalling. Sneered at; mocked, attacked are just some of the things I have witnessed and been subjected to. I would suggest that these behaviours stem from a dislike of anyone from outside the profession who has the audacity to challenge the expert.
Much was made in Steven’s court case about the infamous email from the social worker to several of the MDT.
“There is always going to be something or other that Mr Neary will bring up and more often than not we are having to appease his needs rather than Steven’s, however I want Steven to remain at [the support unit]. I know that it seems that you as a team are constantly being questioned but this will be the case because Mr Neary wants to find issues with the care that other people give Steven. We just need to ensure like we have that we are working together for the best outcome for Steven.”
What the court judgement didn’t make clear was what led to her email. In fact, it was a reply to one that I sent to the social worker and the Unit manager the day before. I reproduce it below and hope the content is self explanatory:
“Hi All. I’ve just come back from the gym with Steven and the support workers. I couldn’t help but notice that the issue about Steven’s ties, cords and laces going missing is still happening. His trainers had no laces in and whenever he kicked the ball, they flew off. Also, the elastic from his tracksuit bottoms had been removed and every time he did some short sprints, his tracksuit ended up around his ankles. I know that **(Another resident) has the tendency to go into the laundry room and remove these items and I’m not knocking him at all. For me, this is a matter of Steven’s dignity. And also it’s becoming quite expensive to keep replacing all these clothes that have become useless……”
It’s not aggressive is it? But it cut the social worker’s fragile ego. Her response was totally inappropriate to my enquiry and demonstrates the real loathing she felt towards me.
If it was just a battle between the parent and the medic, that would be one thing. But as numerous stories reveal, there is a consequence to the person being cared for. Revenge on the parent can be played out on the child. Steven’s fate was a year’s detention: Connor’s was unbearably worse. Dr Murphy was blinded by her feelings towards Sara and it led to total indifference towards her patient. (I’m sure the Freudians among you, may suggest something even worse).
One thing I never understand in the world of social care is where is the clinical supervision? In my professional counselling world, I have clinical supervision once a fortnight. It has many purposes but one of the most important ones is to look at where my stuff may be intruding into the therapeutic work. On a few occasions my supervisor has said to me “Mark – this is your shit”. It is deeply uncomfortable but invaluable and a real necessity. It is about serving the client. From the evidence of Dr Murphy’s tribunal and the ragbag collection of character witnesses she produced it was clear that, even six years on, she receives none (or little) clinical supervision. I suspect that sometimes you reach such a height in your field that supervision is considered beneath you. Or you are left to organise your own supervision and that would have been very low down Dr Murphy’s list of priorities.
The conduct and professional behaviour of Dr Murphy will continue to attract much analysis and discussion.
I suggest that it would be foolish to overlook the obvious. Dr Murphy’s conduct and professional judgement was impaired because she hated Sara Ryan.
Connor died because of a fragile, out of control ego.
When the world of adult social care is populated by professionals like this, this is what makes that world “difficult”. Not the Connors.