An ”arrogant” senior consultant has become the first doctor in Britain to be prosecuted for falsely signing patient’s death cerificates.
Reckless Dr Martin Sandler, 49 – dubbed ‘Dr Death Certificate’ by colleagues – pocketed £70 for each form he signed.
Dr Sandler’s actions meant the bodies of six patients were cremated without confirming their cause of death.
New NHS guidelines – introduced after the Harold Shipman murders – mean a patient’s death certificate must be signed by the doctor who treated them and countersigned by a colleague who has examined the body and interviewed the family.
But Dr Sandler countersigned the certificates and falsely claimed on the forms he had viewed the bodies and spoken to the patient’s relatives.
Dr Sandler admitted signing six certificates of patients between January and May 2008.
He is the first doctor in Britain to be prosecuted for ”signing a false certificate” under the Cremation Act 1902.
A further 111 similar charges dating back to December 2005 were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to lack of evidence.
Dr Sandler was fined £1,500, ordered to pay £150 court costs and a
£15 victim surcharge when he appeared at Solihull Magistrates Court last Friday.
District Judge Kevin Grego, said: ”This case is not about greed.
”It is probably about arrogance and this is a danger any professional in any profession can fall into.
”There was a personally sloppy approach towards the completion of forms. Based on the evidence it doesn’t suggest these forms were signed for profit.
”There was a regulatory framework that was breached.
”If the framework is robust it lessens the likelihood of making a mistake, it gives dignity to those who have died and their families.
”It lessens the remote possibility of a person such as Dr Shipman who is in the process of patient care acting in a way they should not.”
Dr Sandler signed the forms while he worked as a consultant geriatrician and former clinical director at the Heart of England NHS Trust in the Solihull, West Midlands.
James Leonard, defending, told the court Dr Sandler signed the forms ”recklessly”.
He said: ”His actions were reckless rather than deliberate”.
Judge Grego added that Dr Sandler – suspended by the General Medical Council for 18 months before being allowed back to work in June – had damaged the image of the medical profession.
He said: ”The harm caused in this case was not to any particular patient but it allowed the creepage of a sloppy procedure that came to be in 2008.
”It effects public confidence in the medical profession and it is bound to have an effect on the families concerned.
”He [Dr Sandler] has been devastated financially, devastated professionally and devastated personally.”
After the hearing, Dr Sandler, from Hampton-in-Arden, Warks., refused to comment on the case.
Before leaving court in a taxi he said: ”I have nothing further to say about this matter.”
Dr Sandler now faces a fitness to practise hearing in the next few months.
Today an ex-colleague of Dr Sandler’s who did not want to be named, said: ”He was and is an exceptional doctor.
”Sadly though, his reputation has been tarnished by this some members of staff cruelly refer to him as ‘Dr Death Certificate’.
”It’ll take a while before his career recovers from this case.”