A surgeon is a medical professional who performs surgery in modern times. Although different traditions exist in other times and places, a modern surgeon is typically also a licensed physician or has received the same medical training as physicians before specializing in surgery. Podiatry, dentistry, and veterinary medicine all have surgeons. But did you know that in 2013 a surgeon was caught branding his patients’ livers?
After branding his initials into two patients’ livers, a surgeon in the United Kingdom was struck off and convicted of assault. It was only discovered when another doctor discovered 1.6-inch (4cm) initials on a failed organ transplant.
The Liver-Branding Surgeon
Simon Bramhall, MBChB, was a liver transplant surgeon and lecturer at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the deputy director of the division of medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
According to Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) records, Bramhall pled guilty in 2017 to two counts of assault for using an argon beam coagulator, a device commonly used during transplant surgeries to resect organs, to autograph his initials on the transplanted livers of two patients during their surgeries.
The donor’s liver began to fail a week after one victim’s surgery for reasons unrelated to Bramhall’s actions. Another surgeon discovered the branding during a follow-up procedure on the patient.
Bramhall was fined £10,000 which is approximately $13,704 and sentenced to community service in 2018. He resigned from his position at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2014 and was barred from practicing for at least five months in December 2020. (Source: Medical Page Today)
Why was the Case Revoked? Was There Any Physical Harm Caused to His Patients?
The MPTS agreed to review the case in December 2020, including statements from Bramhall in which he admitted to making a mark on the adjacent liver and acknowledging that his actions were stupid and completely wrong.
Bramhall’s legal counsel argued that the doctor’s fitness to practice was no longer jeopardized and that this case was never about his surgical skills but rather about Mr. Bramhall’s disregard for the dignity of the patients.
At a hearing in June 2021, MPTS stated that it was satisfied that there is no discernible risk of the incident occurring again and that Bramhall’s fitness for practice is no longer harmed as a result of the conviction. The group revoked the order that had suspended Bramhall’s practice.
However, the case was resubmitted to MPTS. During a hearing, the service stated that while there was no long-term physical harm done to either patient, Bramhall’s actions had caused significant emotional harm to one of them.
The MPTS stated that while Bramhall was previously of good character, removing him from the country’s medical register was the appropriate sanction for grossly violating his patients’ dignity and autonomy.
According to the most recent records from the United Kingdom, an immediate suspension was imposed following the hearing. The General Medical Council, The appeals process in Bramhall lasts 28 days. (Source: Web MD)
Image from BBC