A doctor who carried a sample of HIV-infected blood on a passenger flight from Africa has had his suspension from the medical profession lifted after a High Court judge ruled that he poses no risk to patients.
Dr Tubonye Harry was accused of endangering fellow-flyers by carrying the blood sample in his hand luggage on a flight from Nigeria in December 2010. He was soon afterwards suspended from his post as a consultant in genito-urinary medicine. He was also accused of using NHS resources to benefit his private patients, some of them from overseas.
He was additionally alleged to have instructed a colleague to amend a patient's records ‘to cover his tracks’, although Dr Harry said he quickly ‘realised his folly’ and countermanded that instruction within half an hour.
In September 2012, the General Medical Council (GMC) suspended him from practising medicine for 18 months, pending a full disciplinary investigation, but that decision has now been overturned by Mr Justice Burnett.
The judge acknowledged that there had been a risk of passengers on the flight coming into contact with infected blood had the sample's packaging burst. Dr Harry had accepted that the blood, although securely stored in his luggage, should have been put in the hold.
However the judge said that the GMC’s reasons for imposing the suspension were ‘thin’ and the case did not raise concerns about patient safety. Dr Harry’s error in transporting the sample in his hand luggage was short-lived and unlikely to be repeated. ‘In my judgment, there was no real risk to members of the public in Dr Harry's continuing to practise’, the judge said.
He concluded that informed and reasonable members of the public would not be ‘offended’ by Dr Harry’s return to medical practise pending the full hearing of his case by the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel.