Saturday, 12 May 2012

How many slit wrist deaths has Dr Hunt seen?

Forget what detective stories might say, the reality is that very, very few deaths result from blood loss following the cutting of one or both wrists.  There are two arteries that pass through the wrist to the hand, the radial artery and the ulnar artery.  To carry out the most thorough job then would necessitate cutting 4 arteries, in the case of Dr Kelly it was just one.  I have noticed instances from those who go along with the suicide conclusion saying that Dr Kelly slit his wrists (plural).  To me this demonstrates a failure to appreciate the known facts.

That cutting a wrist is such an ineffectual way to commit suicide or to kill somebody else inevitably means that a pathologist called to examine a dead body will possibly never have seen a case of death from a cut wrist.  At the Hutton Inquiry Dr Hunt didn't say that he had previously come across such a situation.  I stand to be corrected but I'm not aware of Dr Hunt in the nine years since the death of Dr Kelly having dealt with a death from a single transected ulnar artery.  It is of course no fault of his if he hadn't seen a death of this sort before he was called to Harrowdown Hill on 18th July 2003.  What it does mean is that he should have been very cautious about coming to his conclusions when he wrote his first report following the post mortem. 

Dr Hunt states in his report that the post mortem was concluded at 00.15 on Saturday 19 July.  At some time on the 19th he produces his preliminary report.  Having found 3 almost empty blister packs of co-proxamol in a pocket of Dr Kelly's Barbour jacket it should have been obvious to him that co-proxamol poisoning might very well be a factor in the death.  Yet he charges ahead and produces a post mortem report anyway with conclusions about the death.  This was a very politically charged death and in fairness he might have felt under enormous pressure to produce some answers; I suspect that this might happen quite often.

Regarding the approach of a pathologist it is pertinent to read paragraph 19 of the judgment on the second appeal regarding the conviction of Sally Clark:  Sally, it may be remembered, was wrongly charged and convicted of the murder of two of her children.  The judgment dated 11 April 2003 was only three months before Dr Kelly's death and the content of paragraph 19 should have been something pathologists were aware of I would have thought.

This sentence from paragraph 19 is very relevant:

Amongst the questions the pathologist will want to answer are whether any competing
explanations for the death are consistent with his findings.
Also the last two sentences: 
A competent pathologist will not assume that any one of the explanations for death
advanced is necessarily the correct explanation but in considering the range of
possibilities, he will have specific regard to evidence consistent with or
contradictory of such explanations.  It is, of course, important that the pathologist
records such information so that any one else can understand any matter that he may 
have had in mind in conducting the examination.

1 comment:

  1. Blogger has decided to give me grief this evening! The post isn't really complete, I wanted to add more. So apologies! I will see if it behaves when I try a new post.