General Medical Council won't take any action against pro-life doctor

Rev Dr Patrick Pullicino.(Photo: The Christian Legal Centre)

The General Medical Council (GMC) has ended a three-year investigation into a retired neurologist and Catholic priest with a decision to take no further action.

Dr Patrick Pullicino, who in 2012 was one of the doctors to raise the alarm about abuses in the Liverpool Care Pathway, was investigated after fitness to practise concerns were raised by gender and sexuality academic Celia Kitzinger. 

She claimed that he had been biased in the medical opinion he gave in a 2021 court case about end-of-life treatment. 

The case involved a middle-aged Polish man named only as RS who had suffered brain damage from a heart attack, and the question of whether nutrition and fluids should be removed.

It was suggested that Pullicino, 74, had allowed his faith to prejudice his opinion and that he "may have deliberately misdiagnosed the patient in the hope of saving his life". 

Following a closed-door tribunal to determine whether his medical practice should be suspended, the GMC has decided not to take any action. 

"Dr Pullicino is an experienced Consultant Neurologist, with specialist registration and a licence to practise, and we have no evidence to suggest that he lacks competence to assess a patient's level of consciousness," it said.

The decision from the GMC continued: "We do not have evidence to support an allegation that [his medical opinion] was inaccurate.

"We conclude that there is no realistic prospect of proving these allegations and they are concluded with no action."

In regards to Dr Pullicino's beliefs they ruled: "No evidence was adduced to support the allegation that Dr Pullicino's religious faith or personal beliefs affected his opinion on Patient RS."

Responding to the decision, Dr Pullicino said he was "relieved and pleased" but said that the GMC "should never have allowed an investigation to proceed against me". 

He said he had been "clearly targeted" because of his religious beliefs and his conviction that "medical professionals should do everything possible to save another human's life".

"I am concerned that it has taken so long for me to be vindicated and cleared," he added. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported him in his case: "The irony should not escape us that this is a doctor under investigation for actually trying to save a life."

She continued, "The case highlights the growing pressure on medical professionals not to break ranks with their colleagues who had taken a controversial decision to end a patient's life.

"In sensitive end-of-life cases, dissenting medical experts risk severe criticism by courts and activists, leading to protracted and stressful investigations by professional regulators." 

She added, "We need more doctors and experts who are prepared to be fearless in defending the patient's right to life."