On 31st May 2017, Ian Paterson, a breast surgeon, was sentenced to 15 years in prison at Nottingham Crown Court, after being convicted for 17 counts of wounding with intent and 3 counts of unlawful wounding.
It is believed that Mr Paterson performed hundreds of breast surgeries which were in breach of national guidelines. Mr Paterson was accused of exaggerating or inventing cancer risks and as a result carrying out extensive and life-changing operations which were not medically justifiable. Additionally, when Mr Paterson was practicing privately he was able to claim payments for these more expensive procedures
A method used by the surgeon which became known as ‘cleavage-sparing surgery’ meant rather than performing a full mastectomy and removing the whole breast, he left tissue behind. This procedure was unrecognised and unapproved; patients were likely to suffer as a result and require further treatment. Of the 1,207 mastectomies Mr Paterson carried out, 675 of mastectomy patients have since died and 68 of his surviving patients have seen their cancer return.
During the 7 week trial which took place throughout April and May in 2017, the jury heard the accounts of 10 victims operated on between 1997 and 2011. These patients were privately treated at Spire Healthcare hospitals. The Prosecution argued that rather than acting in patients’ best interests, Mr Paterson carried out procedures which were completely unnecessary and no reasonable surgeon would have performed them. It was argued that this could only be put down to Mr Paterson’s own, perhaps obscure, motives.
One of Mr Paterson’s victims was Leanne Joseph. Mrs Joseph underwent surgery in 2006 to remove her milk ducts after being informed she was at risk of cancer. The invasive and expensive operation meant Mrs Joseph was then unable to breastfeed her daughter. This inability caused the patient long-term distress and later lead her to suffer from depression. At trial, the prosecution noted that not only do Mr Paterson’s victims have their scars to serve as physical reminders but also suffer psychological effects. As someone in a position of power, Mr Paterson abused a pertinent relationship of trust within society.
The actions of Ian Paterson and his trial have brought into question potential co-conspirators and the entities he worked for. It is of great concern that issues raised about Mr Paterson were not reported or escalated sooner. Despite several internal and external investigations, as well as complaints from patients, GP and other surgeons, the General Medical Council did not suspend Mr Paterson until 2011. It is therefore of the upmost importance that the healthcare system addresses and reviews the measures in place to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
On countless occasions, Ian Paterson breached the duty of care he owed to his patients; this breach caused, or at the very least contributed to, injuries sustained. Negligence of this kind is unacceptable. Mr Paterson’s victims suffered devastating effects for which they not only deserve justice for, brought by criminal charges, but also compensation, brought by civil claims.
If you, or a loved one, have been let down by the medical profession and suffered an injury as a result, please do not hesitate to contact Oakwood Solicitors for some free, confidential advice to see if you can make a claim for Surgical Negligence.
Article by Bethany Hall
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