East Ham eye doctor avoids jail after manslaughter conviction
- Credit: Archant
An optometrist who failed to spot symptoms of a life-threatening brain condition during an eye test of an eight-year-old boy who later died has avoided jail.
Honey Rose, 35, of High Street North in East Ham, did not notice Vincent Barker had swollen optic discs when she examined him at a branch of Boots in Ipswich.
She was today given a two-year suspended sentence, ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and given a 24-month supervision order.
Vincent had an abnormality which is a symptom of hydrocephalus – fluid on the brain – and he died in July 2012, about five months after the eye test.
Rose was was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter at Ipswich Crown Court in July.
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Her 10-day trial heard “any competent optometrist” would have spotted the swollen discs and Vincent’s death could have been prevented if she had “done her job properly”.
Sentencing the mother of three, Judge Jeremy Stuart-Smith said it was the first case if its type, as convictions for manslaughter by gross negligence generally involve multiple lapses over time in the face of patients who were displaying obvious symptoms.
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A written statement from Vincent’s mother, Joanne Barker, said: “The knowledge our loss should have been prevented and Vinnie should have been saved is intolerable to live with.”
She said the family still struggled to accept Vincent was not coming home and the impact on his siblings had been “immeasurable”.
A letter from the Association of Optometrists said there had been an increase in practitioners’ concerns about the way they were doing their job and whether they were following procedure, said Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting.
There was no evidence that practitioners were becoming more risk-averse and referring more patients to other professions, the letter added.
Ian Stern QC, mitigating, described Rose’s failure to examine the back of Vincent’s eyes as an “inexplicable lack of action” and a “one-off”.
He added that there were no overt symptoms which suggested risk in the case, and Rose thought she had completed the examination and was following a “programmed course of action”.
“For whatever reason, she did not look at the back of the eye,” said Mr Stern. “She had no foreseeability as to the consequences.”
He said Rose had worked “extremely hard” to qualify in India before moving to the UK and qualifying as an optometrist here.
“The loss of that vocation, which undoubtedly will happen when she comes before a fitness to practise panel, will affect her self-respect as someone who worked so hard to obtain those qualifications,” said Mr Stern.
She has not worked since March 2013, and legal proceedings had hung over her for four years since she learned of Vincent’s death in September 2012.