Australian GP doctors being made scapegoats?

08/11/2003
NEWS STORY

It's been revealed that two of the doctors that attended race marshal Graham Beveridge at the 2001 Australian GP have been found guilty of 'unprofessional conduct'.

Mr Beveridge was killed in a freak incident following a collision involving Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve on the fifth lap of the race, when he was struck by a wheel from the Canadian's car which became detached from the BAR and flew through a gap in the safety fencing striking the fifty-two year old in the chest, fatally wounding him.

Ever since the incident there has been rumour and counter-rumour and it seems that at long last the powers that be have opted to use two doctors as scapegoats.

To all intents and purposes the reason for the charge of 'unprofessional conduct' against doctors Dr David Vissenga and deputy officer Dr Paul Temme is due to the fact that medical records were altered, namely the time of death was changed.

It's understood that another doctor made an official complaint to the medical practitioners board and that subsequently the investigation was launched.

The board ruled that Dr Vissenga had changed the time of death in order that it appeared Mr Beveridge didn't die at the circuit but at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital. On paper Mr Beveridge died at Albert Hospital whereas according to the investigation he died in the medical centre when resuscitation attempts were abandoned.

Three doctors working at the track's medical centre, John Maloney, David Cooper and Christopher Atkin were all cleared.

Doctors Vissenga and Temme attended Mr Beveridge trackside before the fatally injured marshal was transferred to the circuit's medical centre where Doctors Maloney, Cooper and Atkin continued to attempt to resuscitate him before eventually having him airlifted to Albert Hospital where he was declared dead at 15:08 - almost an hour after the marshal had been 'injured'.

For some time there has been speculation that Mr Beveridge was in fact killed the instant he was hit in the chest, indeed we have heard that the floor of the BAR hit the safety fencing with an impact of something in the region of 30+g. One source has claiming that Mr Beveridge was most likely dead before he hit the ground.

What troubles us is that if this is true, two good doctors risk having their reputations forever tarnished, but why?

Was it in the doctors' interest to alter the details of the location and time of Mr Beveridge's death? Surely not.

What occurred to us at the time is that when the ambulance carrying Mr Beveridge left the spot where the accident occurred and headed for the track's medical centre - with the marshal inside still apparently fighting for his life - the ambulance - using the circuit - pulled aside to allow the safety car and the rest of the field by. Surely, if the ambulance had contained an injured, but living, marshal it would have been given precedence.

If Beveridge did indeed die at the track it isn't a couple of doctors - men who have given their time and services for free - who are involved in a cover-up, it goes much higher.

Perhaps De Vissenga acted unwisely, perhaps he was naively attempting to save the Albert Park circuit from 'bad press', or a coronial enquiry that would involve the drivers concerned, the Albert Park organizing committee, CAMS (Australian national sporting authority) and everyone else.

pitpass contacted a doctor who said "There is the medico-legal situation that the person is still 'technically' alive until the senior medical person says the situation is hopeless and takes the responsibility to cease resuscitation," says our source. "This is a very difficult decision to make, especially in 'side of the road' situations.

"There would have been enormous pressure brought to bear on Drs. Vissenga and Temme to continue resuscitation 'at all costs'. The three other doctors would have been working as co-opted medics for the weekend, would not have had this in mind and would have been ready to give up resuscitation much earlier.

"Hypothetically the scenario could have been where the senior of the three other doctors could have said "Give Up" and the nurse records that time. Dr. Temme contacts Dr. Vissenga in race control, who then says, "No, keep going! I'll arrange helicopter to the hospital." Dr. Temme is then left in the situation where he is told to follow one course of action by 'his' senior, so then tells the nurse recorder that no, the man is not technically dead yet as we are going to continue resuscitation, so change your entry in the log."

What saddens us is that two good men have had their reputations irreparably damaged, while many questions remain unanswered.

According to some sources Mr Beveridge was 'out of position' at the time of the incident and had moved to sport where he was directly in front of a family. Had the marshal not been there the consequences could have been far worse. Two days after the accident a teenage girl from Geelong wrote to the Melbourne Sun claiming that she had been standing with her young brother just a few yards behind Mr Beveridge. Imagine the worldwide condemnation of F1 had a couple of teenagers been killed.

On his retirement double World Champion Mika Hakkinen paid special tribute to the doctors at the Adelaide circuit whose actions in 1995 saved his life following a horrific practice accident.

The Finn fully realises the debt he and indeed the whole of F1, insiders and fans, owes the many volunteers without whom the sport simply couldn't happen.

Surely Drs. Temme and Vissenga deserve better than this.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 08/11/2003
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