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Letter: Medical Evidence Does Not Support Suicide

Letter To Guardian: Medical Evidence Does Not Support Suicide By Kelly

From Rowena Thursby

No fewer than SIX MEDICAL SPECIALISTS wrote to the Guardian today (see letter in full below), contending that the medical evidence, as presented at the Hutton Inquiry, does not support the cause of death cited by forensic pathologist, Dr Nicholas Hunt. They are of the view that it is "highly improbable" that Dr Kelly died of haemorrhage from a slashed wrist.

Media wishing to interview any of the medical signatories please send me an e-mail and I will provide you with a contact list with e-mail addresses & phone numbers. If you publish this letter, or an article based on it, please include my e-mail address as I wish to invite comment from other medical specialists.

Rowena Thursby
Tel: 01425 638409
RowenaThursby@onetel.net.uk

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Medical evidence does not support suicide by Kelly

Thursday February 12, 2004

The Guardian

Since three of us wrote our letter to the Guardian on January 27, questioning whether Dr Kelly's death was suicide, we have received professional support for our view from vascular surgeon Martin Birnstingl, pathologist Dr Peter Fletcher, and consultant in public health Dr Andrew Rouse. We all agree that it is highly improbable that the primary cause of Dr Kelly's death was haemorrhage from transection of a single ulnar artery, as stated by Brian Hutton in his report.

On February 10, Dr Rouse wrote to the BMJ explaining that he and his colleague, Yaser Adi, had spent 100 hours preparing a report, Hutton, Kelly and the Missing Epidemiology. They concluded that "the identified evidence does not support the view that wrist-slash deaths are common (or indeed possible)". While Professor Chris Milroy, in a letter to the BMJ, responded, "unlikely does not make it impossible", Dr Rouse replied: "Before most of us will be prepared to accept wristslashing ... as a satisfactory and credible explanation for a death, we will also require evidence that such aetiologies are likely; not merely 'possible'. "

Our criticism of the Hutton report is that its verdict of "suicide" is an inappropriate finding. To bleed to death from a transected artery goes against classical medical teaching, which is that a transected artery retracts, narrows, clots and stops bleeding within minutes. Even if a person continues to bleed, the body compensates for the loss of blood through vasoconstriction (closing down of non-essential arteries). This allows a partially exsanguinated individual to live for many hours, even days.

Professor Milroy expands on the finding of Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist at the Hutton inquiry - that haemorrhage was the main cause of death (possibly finding it inadequate) - and falls back on the toxicology: "The toxicology showed a significant overdose of co-proxamol. The standard text, Baselt, records deaths with concentrations at 1 mg/l, the concentration found in Kelly." But Dr Allan, the toxicogist in the case, considered this nowhere near toxic. Each of the two components was a third of what is normally considered a fatal level. Professor Milroy then talks of "ischaemic heart disease". But Dr Hunt is explicit that Dr Kelly did not suffer a heart attack. Thus, one must assume that no changes attributable to myocardial ischaemia were actually found at autopsy.

We believe the verdict given is in contradiction to medical teaching; is at variance with documented cases of wrist-slash suicides; and does not align itself with the evidence presented at the inquiry. We call for the reopening of the inquest by the coroner, where a jury may be called and evidence taken on oath.

Andrew Rouse
Public health consultant

Searle Sennett
Specialist in anaesthesiology

David Halpin
Specialist in trauma

Stephen Frost
Specialist in radiology

Dr Peter Fletcher
Specialist in pathology

Martin Birnstingl
Specialist in vascular surgery

First Published: http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4856799-103683,00.html

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