A police doctor will be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter over the death of a man in police custody, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said. Andrzej Rymarzak died at Chelsea police station, West London, in January 2009 after taking drugs and alcohol. He was examined and declared fit to be detained by Dr Hisham El-Baroudy.

Officers arrested Andrzej Rymarzak near Old Brompton Road on 21 January 2009 following reports of an attack on an ambulance crew that had come to help him, the CPS said. An ambulance was again called by police after he did not wake up in the early hours of 22 January and tests found opiate and alcohol intoxication as the cause of his death.

The detailed facts of this case will no doubt emerge as the case progresses. However, the medical profession tops the list of occupations held to account in criminal courts. A literature review published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2006 concluded:

“The criminal prosecution of a doctor is appropriate when there is clear evidence of violation of safety rules. However, human error is unavoidable in the course of care. Charging doctors with manslaughter following a medical error may be an emotionally satisfying way to exact retribution, but if individual doctors are singled out for punishment it will become much harder to foster an open culture. Faults in the system will remain hidden, and more patients will die.”

What will be the impact of another prosecution?