Surgeon burned initials on to patients’ livers
AN “ARROGANT” consultant surgeon who burned his initials on to the livers of two unconscious transplant patients has been fined £10,000.
Simon Bramhall, 53, used an argon beam machine to “write” his initials on the organs of two anaesthetised victims in February and August 2013 while working at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
A judge at the city’s Crown Court said Bramhall, who resigned from the hospital in 2014, had carried out “an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust”.
The consultant, who was given a formal warning by the General Medical Council (GMC) last February, admitted two counts of assault by beating last month after prosecutors accepted his not guilty pleas to charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Judge Paul Farrer QC also sentenced Bramhall to a 12-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work.
He said: “Both of the (transplant) operations were long and difficult. I accept that on both occasions you were tired and stressed and I accept this may have affected your judgment. This was conduct born of professional arrogance of such magnitude that it strayed into criminal behaviour.
“What you did was an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust that these patients had invested in you.
“I accept that you didn’t intend or foresee anything but the most trivial of harm would be caused.”
Opening the facts of the case against Bramhall, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said one of the two victims initialled by the world-renowned surgeon had been left feeling “violated” and suffering ongoing psychological harm.
Patient A received a donor organ in 2013 in a life-saving operation carried out by Bramhall.
But the donor liver failed around a week later – for reasons unconnected to its implantation – and another surgeon spotted Bramhall’s initials on the organ.
A photograph of the 1.5 inch branding was taken on a mobile phone and Bramhall, who now works for the NHS in Herefordshire, later admitted using the argon beam coagulator to mark Patient A’s liver.
Mr Badenoch said of the initial transplant operation: “Mr Bramhall had to work exceptionally hard and use all of his skill to complete the operation.
“At the end of the operation he performed a liver biopsy using the argon beam coagulator, and then used it to burn his initials.”
The court heard Bramhall later told police he had “flicked his wrist” and made the mark within a few seconds.
“He knew that the action could cause no harm to the patient,” he said. “He also said in hindsight this was naive and foolhardy – a misjudged attempt to relieve the tension in theatre.”
Patient A declined Bramhall’s offer of an apology after the “unbelievable and farcical” allegations emerged in late 2013 and opted to report the matter to the General Medical Council and the police.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Patient A stated: “The overwhelming feeling of violation was intense. This happened to me while I was under sedation. Why did he think it was appropriate to do this to me?”
Defence barrister Michael Duck QC, offering mitigation for the surgeon, urged Judge Farrer to view the offences against the background of almost 30 years of “impeccable” work.
Around 20 well-wishers – some of whom had received organ transplants conducted by Bramhall – attended the court hearing to support him.
“You are dealing with a man who has historically been one of the most talented in his field as a surgeon,” Mr Duck told Judge Farrer. “A number of people who sit in this court are able to sit in this court because of the skill of Mr Bramhall.”
During his sentencing remarks, the judge told Bramhall, who has performed 351 liver transplants and thousands of other operations: “Over many years you have no doubt saved numerous lives.
“I accept throughout you career you have worked tirelessly for the public good.
“There can be little doubt that you will never behave in a similar way in future.”
Simon Bramhall used an argon beam machine to ‘write’ his initials on the organs of two anaesthetised victims.