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Medical experts speak out about Dr Kelly

A growing number of medical experts are breaking through the wall of silence to share with the public their concerns about the official verdict that Dr Kelly committed suicide.

Writing in today's Guardian newspaper, five respected British medical experts have come forward to express grave concerns about the conclusions of the Hutton inquiry into the death of the government weapons expert Dr David Kelly:

"Our criticism of the Hutton report is that its verdict of suicide is an inappropriate finding."

Dr Kelly was found "dead in the woods" after he was named as the man responsible for the leak in which journalists learned that the government was lying about WMD to manufacture an excuse for invading Iraq.

To date, no mainstream, journalist, reporter or mass media source has mentioned this story or the Kelly group.


The Guardian (UK), "Medical evidence does not support suicide by Kelly", 12 February 2004.
[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,1146025,00.html ]
    Since three of us wrote our letter to the Guardian on January 27, questioning whether Dr Kelly's death was suicide, we have received professional support for our view from vascular surgeon Martin Birnstingl, pathologist Dr Peter Fletcher, and consultant in public health Dr Andrew Rouse. We all agree that it is highly improbable that the primary cause of Dr Kelly's death was haemorrhage from transection of a single ulnar artery, as stated by Brian Hutton in his report.
    On February 10, Dr Rouse wrote to the BMJ explaining that he and his colleague, Yaser Adi, had spent 100 hours preparing a report, Hutton, Kelly and the Missing Epidemiology. They concluded that "the identified evidence does not support the view that wrist-slash deaths are common (or indeed possible)". While Professor Chris Milroy, in a letter to the BMJ, responded, "unlikely does not make it impossible", Dr Rouse replied: "Before most of us will be prepared to accept wristslashing ... as a satisfactory and credible explanation for a death, we will also require evidence that such aetiologies are likely; not merely 'possible'. "
    Our criticism of the Hutton report is that its verdict of "suicide" is an inappropriate finding. To bleed to death from a transected artery goes against classical medical teaching, which is that a transected artery retracts, narrows, clots and stops bleeding within minutes. Even if a person continues to bleed, the body compensates for the loss of blood through vasoconstriction (closing down of non-essential arteries). This allows a partially exsanguinated individual to live for many hours, even days.
    Professor Milroy expands on the finding of Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist at the Hutton inquiry - that haemorrhage was the main cause of death (possibly finding it inadequate) - and falls back on the toxicology: "The toxicology showed a significant overdose of co-proxamol. The standard text, Baselt, records deaths with concentrations at 1 mg/l, the concentration found in Kelly." But Dr Allan, the toxicogist in the case, considered this nowhere near toxic. Each of the two components was a third of what is normally considered a fatal level. Professor Milroy then talks of "ischaemic heart disease". But Dr Hunt is explicit that Dr Kelly did not suffer a heart attack. Thus, one must assume that no changes attributable to myocardial ischaemia were actually found at autopsy.
    We believe the verdict given is in contradiction to medical teaching; is at variance with documented cases of wrist-slash suicides; and does not align itself with the evidence presented at the inquiry. We call for the reopening of the inquest by the coroner, where a jury may be called and evidence taken on oath.
    Andrew Rouse, Public health consultant
    Searle Sennett, Specialist in anaesthesiology
    David Halpin, Specialist in trauma
    Stephen Frost, Specialist in radiology
    Dr Peter Fletcher, Specialist in pathology
    Martin Birnstingl, Specialist in vascular surgery

BMJ, "Hutton, Kelly and the missing Epidemiology", E-Letters, 8 February 2004.
[ http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/326/7384/294#49696 ]
    ... However had Lord Hutton asked for expert epidemiological advice he would probably have been told:
    Suicide associated with wrist slashing is extremely rare - so rare that the Office of National Statistics does not report wrist slashing as a specific cause of death; it groups such deaths with other uncommon suicide methods such as belly and abdomen stabbings and throat cuttings. (see attached table). This table shows that fewer than five, 55-60 year old men use cutting and piercing instruments to commit suicide annually.
    This statistical evidence, combined with the fact that even after searching the medical literature (2) and speaking to medical and surgical colleagues we have not been able to document that wrist slashing can lead to successful suicide, suggests that for all practical purposes wrist slashing suicide does not exist in Britain.
    - Yaser Adi MPH, Systematic Reviewer, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, UK
    [Dr Kelly died in a manner widely percieved among th epublic as a typical method of suicide. In reality, however, suicide by wrist incision is in fact extremely rare and unusual. Epedemiologically, suicide by wrist slashing never happens.]


SMH (AU), "Top spook outs himself as source", 19 February 2004.
[ http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/02/18/1077072713974.html ]
    The director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp, has revealed himself as the source of a newspaper story claiming the Federal Government was told the United States had exaggerated prewar claims on Iraq's illicit weapons.
    But Mr Lewincamp has denied many of the statements attributed to him by journalist Mark Forbes, who quoted "one of Australia's most senior intelligence officials" in The Age on Saturday.
    In a saga with echoes of the British controversy involving weapons expert David Kelly and BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, Mr Lewincamp admitted he said that Iraq's WMD program was latent and the extent of its weapons unknown.
    These comments had previously been relayed to the Senate, Mr Lewincamp said in a statement read to the Senate's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee yesterday.

Rochdale Observer (UK), "Doc in Kelly doubt", by Dave Appleton, 18 February 2004.
[ http://www.rochdaleobserver.co.uk/news/index/articles/article_id=10305.html ]
    ONE of Rochdale’s most senior doctors has become unwittingly embroiled in the Dr David Kelly affair.
    His name has appeared on an American website opposed to President Bush which challenges the main findings of the Hutton report into the death of scientist Dr Kelly.
    Dr Don MacKechnie, head of the accident and emergency department at Rochdale Infirmary, said he supported three specialists who questioned whether the severing of an artery in the wrist would lead to death through blood loss.
    In his experience when an artery was cut it usually closed itself off, stopping the blood flow.
    In his inquiry into the death of Dr Kelly – who was named as the source of a BBC report claiming that the government had ‘sexed up’ an intelligence dossier on the threat from Iraq – Lord Hutton said he was satisfied from the evidence that the arms expert had taken his own life.
    But doubts were raised by the three doctors who suggested the former UN weapons inspector could not have committed suicide in the way described at the Hutton inquiry.
    Forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt had told the Hutton inquiry that Dr Kelly had bled to death from a self inflicted wound to his left wrist.
    But Dr David Halpin, a former consultant in trauma and orthopaedic medicine at Torbay Hopsital in Devon, and two colleagues, question this.
    In a letter to the Guardian they said: “We view this as highly improbable. Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life threatening loss.”
    It was on this point that Dr MacKechnie, who has been head of A&E at the Infirmary since 1996, became involved.
    He said: “I was telephoned by Jeremy Laurance, a reporter from the Independent newspaper, whom I knew from my work on the British Medical Association’s accident and emergency medicine committee, asking if I supported what Dr Halpin and the others had said. I said to him ‘From a factual point of view the authors are correct. When you transect an artery completely it usually does close off’.”
    But since that interview appeared in print, the story was taken up by an anti-George Bush website in the United States which ran a story headlined ‘Hutton Report: Too Clever By Half.’

The Guardian, "Questions still unanswered over Dr Kelly's death", 19 February 2004.
[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,1151198,00.html ]
    Professor Christopher Milroy refers three times (Letters, February 14) to "wrists". While slitting all four wrist arteries (two in each wrist) and then sitting in a warm bath may allow a person to commit suicide, Dr Kelly had only one completely severed artery and no warm bath.
    The dose of Coproxamol was an overdose over therapeutic levels but not, by a factor of three, a lethal dose. If Dr Kelly did take 29 tablets, why were the contents of his stomach consistent with only one-fifth of a tablet? If the suggestion is that Dr Kelly vomited, then where is the vomit analysis that shows this? No analysis was presented to Hutton. Clearly, also, if the stomach contents were vomited up, this would reduce the amount of the drug in Dr Kelly's body.
    The arguments discussed by Professor Milroy are only a small part of the picture. There is considerable circumstantial evidence surrounding the disappearance, death, and discovery of Dr Kelly that also raise suspicions. I have written a detailed letter to Nicholas Gardiner (the Oxfordshire coroner) outlining my concerns over this.
    - Garrett Cooke, Sandhurst, Berks
    The fact that Dr Kelly's ulnar artery was completely severed makes it even less likely that bleeding would have been sufficient to cause his death, as a small, completely severed, wrist artery quickly retracts and narrows, promoting blood-clotting. The scratches to the wrist Professor Milroy refers to neither support suicide nor refute the possibility of murder made to look like suicide.
    We did not ignore "the toxic dose" of Coproxamol (Letters, February 12): we referred to the toxicologist's statement that the amount of each drug component found in the blood was a third of what is normally considered fatal. As for "ischaemic heart disease", while Dr Hunt, in his report to the Hutton inquiry, noted some hardening of the arteries - common in men of Dr Kelly's age - he stated he could not find evidence of a heart attack.
    At the Hutton inquiry, crucial pieces of forensic evidence were missing: it is not clear whether or not a full battery of tests was done on the lungs, the blood, the heart and the soil. Dr Hunt's report, for instance, did not provide information on an estimated residual blood volume. If Dr Kelly lost significantly less than five pints of blood, then haemorrhage could not have been the cause of death.
    If people are to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Dr Kelly did die in the manner described to Hutton, a full set of test results should be produced - preferably at a full inquest where a jury is called, witnesses subpoenaed and evidence given on oath.
    - Dr Andrew Rouse
      And five other medical specialists
    Wrist-slashing suicide is so rare that the Office of National Statistics does not report it as a specific cause of death; it is subsumed into "suicide and self-inflicted injury by cutting and piercing instruments"; there are about five male cases a year. All Professor Milroy has to do is to produce a single actual example, to show that even the very unusual does happen from time to time.
    - Chris Squire, Twickenham, Middx

"The Insider" mailing list article, 12 February 2004.

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Tags: Dr, Kelly, suicide, verdict, experts, questions, unsound, murder, Iraq, WMD, weapons, expert, government, scientist, Was Dr Kelly assassinated?, , conspiracy theories.

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