A surgeon who branded his initials into patients’ organs has been fined £10,000 (AU$17,000).
According to reports, a court heard Simon Bramhall, 53, used an argon beam to mark two patients’ livers with “SB” in a “naive and foolhardy” attempt to relieve tension in the operating theatre. He was working at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the time.
He previously pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating relating to two incidents on February 9 and August 21 in 2013, and denied the more serious charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Bramhall was sentenced to a 12-month community order, as well as 120 hours of unpaid work, along with the fine on Friday, the Telegraph reports.
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC reportedly told the court one of the victims was left feeling “violated” and suffering ongoing psychological harm.
Acknowledging it hadn’t caused either of the patients’ organs to fail, Badenoch then told the court: “This case is about his practice on two occasions, without the consent of the patient and for no clinical reason whatever, to burn his initials on to the surface of a newly-transplanted liver.”
One of the victims, referred to in court as Patient A, received a donor organ in an operation carried out by Bramhall in 2013. However, it failed a week later – for reasons unconnected to its implantation – and another surgeon noticed the initials then, the court heard.
“He knew that the action could cause no harm to the patient. He also said that in hindsight this was naive and foolhardy – a misjudged attempt to relieve the tension in theatre,” Badenoch reportedly said in court.
Passing sentence, Judge Paul Farrer QC reportedly said: “Both of the (transplant) operations were long and difficult. I accept that on both occasions you were tired and stressed and I accept that 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.”
Bramhall was first suspended in 2013, before resigning the following year after disciplinary proceedings. Speaking to reporters at the time, he admitted he had made a mistake.
“I had a disciplinary meeting on 15 May. I was not dismissed,” he said, according to the BBC. “I made the decision on 16 May I would hand in my notice. It is a bit raw and I have to move on.”
Argon is normally used to stop livers bleeding during operations, by sealing blood vessels together using an electric beam. It can also be used to mark areas due to be worked on. The marks are not thought to damage the organ, and disappear over time.
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