Tuesday 27 January 2004

Three Doctors Dispute How David Kelly Died

Letters forwarded to national British newspapers

As medical professionals, a trauma & orthopaedic surgeon, a specialist anaesthesiologist, and a diagnostic radiologist, we do not think evidence given at the Hutton Inquiry has demonstrated that Dr David Kelly committed suicide.

Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who appeared at the Hutton Inquiry, concluded that Dr Kelly bled to death from a self-inflicted wound in his left wrist. We consider this highly improbable. Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to drastic blood loss. Dr Hunt stated that the only artery that had been cut - the ulnar artery - was completely transected. Complete transection means the artery quickly retracts, promoting clotting of the blood:

"When an artery is completely divided, the highly elastic quality of its wall causes it to retract into the tissues, thereby diminishing the calibre of the vessel and promoting clotting."

A Textbook of Surgery by Christopher, Fourth Edition, 1945, p210

It was reported by the ambulance team that blood at the scene was minimal. It is extremely difficult to lose significant amounts of blood at pressure below 50-60 systolic in a subject who is compensating by vaso-constricting. To have died from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose 3 litres of blood; in our view it is unlikely that Dr Kelly would have lost more than a pint from the wound described.

Mr Alexander Allan, the toxicologist testifying at the Inquiry, considered the ingestion of co-proxamol insufficient to cause death. Mr Allan could not show that Dr Kelly had ingested the 29 tablets said to be missing from the packets found. Only a fifth of one tablet was found in his stomach. Although levels of co-proxamol in the blood were higher than therapeutic levels, Mr Allan conceded that the blood level of each of the drug's two components was less than a third of what would normally be found in a fatal overdose.

In summary, we dispute that Dr Kelly could have died either from haemorrhage or from co-proxamol ingestion. The coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, has spoken in recent days of resuming the inquest into Dr Kelly's death. If it does re-open, a clear need exists for further scrutiny into Dr Hunt's conclusions regarding the cause of death.

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