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British Doctor Pleads Guilty to Carving His Initials on Patients’ Livers

SurgeryA renowned surgeon in the United Kingdom was in court earlier this month to answer criminal charges that he carved his initials into the livers of at least two patients during surgery. According to news reports and court documents, the doctor used an argon beam to essentially “write” his own initials on the surface on the new livers of transplant patients. British news sources have not indicated an ongoing medical malpractice investigation, though one might imagine that if the incident had occurred in the United States, a malpractice lawsuit would have almost certainly be underway.

Plea Deal Accepted

The 53-year-old hepato-pancreato-biliary surgeon—which is a fancy way of saying liver, pancreas, and spleen surgeon—pleaded guilty to two counts of assault in Birmingham Crown Court. Crown prosecutors accepted the plea in place of more serious charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was released on unconditional bail until his sentencing hearing next month. The doctor resigned in 2014 and has not practiced since then.

The two incidents in question took place in February and August of 2013, and prosecutors said that colleagues were present for both surgeries. An argon beam is often used during liver surgery to stop bleeding, but it can also be used to superficially mark surgical sites or areas of concern on a patient’s liver. The doctor’s actions were revealed when his initials were found by another surgeon during a patient’s follow-up procedure.

Medical experts say that the superficial marks on the livers caused no real physiological damage, but patient advocates and prosecutors maintain that the violation of patient trust was bad enough. “This is a patient we are talking about, not an autograph book,” said Joyce Robins, speaking on behalf of a UK patient rights group.

An American Example

For many people, the case brought back memories of a much more destructive example from here in the United States a number of years ago. In 2000, a New York obstetrician was sentenced to probation for carving his initials into the abdomen of a woman on whom he had performed a caesarian section. In that case, the doctor pleaded guilty to assault and agreed to give up his medical practice. He also settled with the victim for $1.75 million in damages. One might argue that external scars are more visible and therefore more damaging to the patient, but the two cases are disturbingly similar.

Call Us for Help

If you or someone you love has been injured by the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of a medical professional, you may be entitled to collect compensation for the losses you have suffered. Contact an experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorney to discuss your available options. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation today.

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