Let’s start at the end. You kind of know how this ends.
Dr. Simon Bramhall, a liver transplant surgeon in the UK, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating. He pleaded not guilty to the more serious charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Prosecutors accepted his plea and he is scheduled for sentencing on January 12th.
In 2013, colleagues discovered Bramhill had been initialing his patient’s organs. Doctors first spotted the initials SB on the liver of one of his transplant patients during follow-up surgery. Then they found another patient with the same initials.
Bramhill was suspended in 2013 and resigned the following year from the hospital where he had privileges.
Earlier this year, the General Medical Council issued Bramhall a formal warning, saying at the time that Bramhall’s case “risks bringing the profession into disrepute, and it must not be repeated.”
Here’s how he did his handiwork. Not with a Montblanc. He used an argon beam laser (otherwise used to coagulate oozing during a transplant). Doctors who were part of the investigation did not believe any patient suffered any harm.
Still, prosecutor Elizabeth Reid said that the organ signing amounted to a criminal abuse of trust, “It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anesthetized,” she said. “His acts in marking the livers of those patients, in a wholly unnecessary way, were deliberate and conscious acts on his part.”
One person who thinks this is much ado about nothing. One of the doctor’s liver transplant patients, Tracy Scriven.
“Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad? I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me,” she added. “The man saved my life.”
I do understand the sentiment that many patients might feel violated. But, it’s hard for me to believe that this surgeon may be sentenced to prison time. There are not many liver transplant surgeons in the UK and if one is removed from the pool, some unfortunate patients may spend more time on the transplant waiting list. And that would truly be tragic.
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