Doctor keeps job after crash left teenager paralysed

David Rawaf from Surrey (pictured) avoided jail and has been researching ways to help the woman recover 

A doctor involved in a road crash which left a teenage girl paralysed is to keep his job after researching ways of helping his victim walk again.

Doctor David Rawaf from Surrey was driving the young woman after dining at a restaurant when he tried to accelerate away from a Mercedes at a set of traffic lights.

The 28-year-old medic’s BMW hit in a dip in the road, lost control and hit trees as well as two lamp posts.

The woman suffered severe spinal injuries on impact and was temporarily paralysed from the waist down after riding in the passenger seat.

Seventeen months on from the incident in Wandsworth, South London, she has only just started taking steps with assistance and has ‘life-changing injuries’.

Rawaf – who sustained minor injuries in the accident – was convicted in December of causing serious injury by dangerous driving but avoided jail with a 16-month sentence suspended for two years.

This week he faced being struck off for misconduct but a disciplinary panel imposed no sanction on him after hearing how he had been visiting the young woman virtually every day to check on her progress and she had expressed no wish for him to be punished.

Colleagues at Imperial College London Hospital – where Rawaf is a Clinical Education Fellow in the Trauma and Orthapedic department – also said he had been liaising with spinal injury experts and studying medical literature for ways to help support the victim’s recovery.

The 28-year-old's BMW (pictured after the crash) hit a lamppost after the doctor accelerated at traffic lights in south London 

The 28-year-old’s BMW (pictured after the crash) hit a lamppost after the doctor accelerated at traffic lights in south London 

He has also postponed a career opportunity in the USA to spend time with the young woman.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told the tragedy occurred after the doctor a former pupil of the independent Whitgift School in Croydon where boarding fees are £36,411 a year was taking the girl to a friend’s home after a night out.

Miss Rebecca Vanstone lawyer for the General Medical Council told the Manchester hearing: ‘He approached a bridge, stopped at the lights, he then wanted to move across two lanes to position himself at the roundabout so he could leave at the next exit.

‘The car behind him restricted his ability to move across the two lanes. Dr Rawaf accelerated in excess of the 40mph speed limit and sped onto the roundabout but hit a dip in the road causing the car to spin.

‘Police who watched CCTV described how the car “took off” and spun out of control, first colliding with numerous trees and a lamppost, continued on travelling, before it stopped after colliding with a second lamppost.

‘Dr Rawaf suffered a minor head injury but his passenger suffered life changing injuries which caused her to be paralysed from the waist down.’

The hearing was told in December last year at Kingston Crown Court, Rawaf, from Carshalton, was also ordered to complete 80 hours’ unpaid work and was banned from driving for three years.

At the time Judge Paul Dodgson told him: ‘Witnesses described both cars as having shot off from the lights and I have no doubt that is what happened.

‘What happened next is unclear, that you had only travelled just over 250 metres before your car hit a kerb. 

‘As to the cause of that, there is no certain answer, but I have no doubt that your speed contributed to your loss of control and over the next second or two, the collision with the lamppost and trees that then occurred was for your passenger, catastrophic.

‘Her injuries were so serious that even now a year later, there is considerable doubt that she will ever walk again.’

The doctor (pictured) faced being struck off after the woman was left with life-changing injuries 

The doctor (pictured) faced being struck off after the woman was left with life-changing injuries 

But the judge told Rawaf he had the ‘courage and decency’ to visit her regularly since the accident and added: ‘It is the case that she bears you no ill will and she indicates she has no wish for you to be punished.

‘In her words, after the accident you visited her everyday for many months and you continue to visit her regularly and offer support. You have helped her in so far as you can with her treatment and you have provided as much support as you can and indeed, as far as anyone could. Your remorse is clear.’

In making its determination MPTS chairman Mr Paul Moulder said: ‘The period of inappropriate driving was only 5-6 seconds and took place over a short distance. There was no intent to cause injury and that Dr Rawaf realised his error in judgement before the accident in that he had lowered his acceleration, in an attempt to prevent the accident.

‘Over 17 months have elapsed since the accident, during which time Dr Rawaf has been practising medicine without any concerns. He was at an early stage in his career but that he has demonstrated a very high level of insight into the accident and its consequences.

‘He had taken immediate steps after the accident to try to make amends to the patient and moreover to the general public interest. There was very large number of extremely positive testimonials. These gave evidence as to not just Dr Rawaf’s achievements and promise in the professional sphere, but also as to his general good character and behaviour.’

Mr Moulder added: ‘It had also been an exceptional factor that Dr Rawaf had taken many steps to make amends by making changes to his career path, engaging in voluntary research into spinal injuries, and providing daily support to his passenger.

‘The Tribunal was impressed by the testimonial evidence and was of the view Dr Rawaf has clearly been deeply affected the events of the night in question and its consequences. He has done everything he can do to make amends for his actions. There are exceptional circumstances would justify taking no action in this case. The Tribunal noted that its duty is not to punish the doctor a second time.

‘A right thinking member of the public, in full knowledge of all the circumstances of this case, would not lose confidence in the regulator if it were to take no further action. There was a public interest in allowing Dr Rawaf, an otherwise capable, caring and conscientious doctor at the start of his career, to continue practising and not depriving the public of his services.’

Earlier Rawaf’s lawyer Jason Bartfield QC said: ‘We have had positive news in regards to the passenger. She is not paralysed and has had significant improvements. Her injury has been reclassified and she now has sensation below the injury.

‘She has been able to take steps with assistance, she has been able to do her own make up and draw. She has come a long way.

‘The police have said there is no suggestion that his driving was anything other than appropriate on approach to the roundabout. He accepts his driving coming off the roundabout was inappropriate.

‘This should not affect his clinical excellence or his condition to work. He has not driven a car since the accident.’

A police report at the time of the accident said the Mercedes AMG car failed to stop after the collision.