Skilled yet ar­ro­gant, he saved many lives but broke an es­sen­tial trust

The Herald - - NEWS - SCOTT D’ARCY

THE pros­e­cu­tion of sur­geon Si­mon Bramhall was de­scribed as unique.

It is be­lieved to be the first time a doc­tor has faced crim­i­nal charges in re­la­tion to an as­sault car­ried out while the pa­tient was un­der­go­ing surgery.

The Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice (CPS) said he used a med­i­cal in­stru­ment called an ar­gon beam co­ag­u­la­tor – which seals bleed­ing blood ves­sels by di­rect­ing a beam of elec­tric­ity on to the area – to in­scribe two pa­tients’ liv­ers as they were un­der gen­eral anaes­thetic.

He even boasted to a nurse who wit­nessed one of the as­saults at Birm­ing­ham’s Queen El­iz­a­beth Hospi­tal: “This is what I do.”

Frank Fer­gu­son, head of spe­cial crime at the CPS, said: “As far as we know it’s a unique case in terms of the facts and demon­strates re­ally the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of pa­tients and the de­gree of trust they place in their sur­geons when they are hav­ing an op­er­a­tion and the im­por­tance that that trust is pro­tected and re­spected by doc­tors. I’ve never heard of any­thing like this be­fore. It’s ap­ply­ing the cur­rent law to a unique set of cir­cum­stances, so in that sense it’s a prece­dent be­cause we’ve never come across a sit­u­a­tion where a bat­tery has taken place in these cir­cum­stances but the crim­i­nal law ap­plies to ev­ery­one.”

Mr Fer­gu­son said Bramhall was a “very re­spected” sur­geon to whom many pa­tients owed their lives. But asked about the doc­tor’s mo­tive, he said: “I can’t speak in terms of why he did that. Clearly he did not an­tic­i­pate that it would be seen, I would sug­gest, but there was fur­ther surgery and he may not have un­der­stood how long it was likely to last.

“He ac­cepted what he was do­ing was ar­ro­gant.”

Mr Fer­gu­son said in one of the cases, the vic­tim had suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal harm.

“There was a very pro­found im­pact on that per­son in terms of dis­tress caused by what hap­pened, the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact,” Mr Fer­gu­son said.

“There was some phys­i­cal harm to the liver, al­though that’s mi­nor in terms of cell dam­age but it would be akin to a mi­nor ex­ter­nal burn. There is no greater trust than the trust which a pa­tient places in a sur­geon when they are hav­ing an op­er­a­tion.

“And no greater vul­ner­a­bil­ity than that of a pa­tient who’s un­der gen­eral anaes­thetic and the breach of that trust and the abuse of that power were ag­gra­vat­ing fea­tures that led us to con­clude it was the right thing to do to take this case for­ward.”

Mr Fer­gu­son said he did not an­tic­i­pate any fur­ther charges and there was no ev­i­dence Bramhall’s col­leagues cov­ered up his ac­tions. He re­signed from the hospi­tal in 2014.

Birm­ing­ham’s Queen El­iz­a­beth Hospi­tal is­sued a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing: “The Trust is clear that Mr Bramhall made a mis­take and this has been dealt with via the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Trust as his then em­ployer.

“We can re­as­sure his pa­tients that there was no im­pact what­so­ever on the qual­ity of his clin­i­cal out­comes.”

The Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil said last year that Bramhall’s con­duct risked bring­ing his pro­fes­sion into dis­re­pute and is­sued a warn­ing to him but did not think it war­ranted fur­ther pun­ish­ment.

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