Sur­geon burned ini­tials on to pa­tients’ liv­ers

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW COOPER NEWS RE­PORTER

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.

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