Noted U.K. Surgeon Admits Burning His Initials Into 2 Patients' Livers: Reports
Dr. Simon Bramhall pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating, the Associated Press, the BBC and The Guardian report
A noted transplant surgeon in the U.K. this week admitted that he had burned his initials into the livers of two patients in 2013, according to multiple news outlets.
Appearing in Birmingham court on Wednesday, Dr. Simon Bramhall pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating, the Associated Press, the BBC and The Guardian report. He pleaded not guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, a more serious charge, according to these reports.
Both incidents to which he confessed occurred during transplant operations in 2013 — on Feb. 9 and Aug. 21 — when Bramhall, 53, was working at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham as a consultant surgeon, according to The Guardian.
He is free on bail and scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 12, the AP reports. PEOPLE could not immediately reach him or his defense for comment on Thursday.
After being suspended in 2013 from the hospital where he had operated, he told the BBC he made “a mistake.”
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch reportedly said in court on Wednesday that the case was “highly unusual and complex” — “both within the expert medical testimony served by both sides and in law.”
“It is factually, so far as we have been able to establish, without legal precedent in criminal law,” he said.
“The pleas of guilty now entered represent an acceptance that that which he did was not just ethically wrong but criminally wrong,” Badenoch said. “They reflect the fact that Dr. Bramhall’s initialling on a patient’s liver was not an isolated incident but rather a repeated act on two occasions, requiring some skill and concentration. It was done in the presence of colleagues.”
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Fellow prosecutor Elizabeth Reid said Bramhall abused his patients’ trust: “It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anesthetized.”
Bramhall acted “with a disregard for the feelings of unconscious patients,” Badenoch said, according to the BBC.
His behavior first came to light in December 2013, when another doctor who was performing follow-up surgery on one of Bramhall’s patients discovered he had initialed “SB” into the person’s liver using an argon beam coagulator, the AP reports.
The electric device is typically used to seal blood vessels and can also be used to highlight the area of an operation. The marks it leaves are believed to fade with time and not be painful for patients, according to the BBC.
Bramhall — who made headlines in 2010 when he successfully transplanted a liver that was saved from a crashed plane — was suspended before the end of 2013 and resigned the following year amid a disciplinary investigation.
“I was not dismissed,” he said at the time, according to the BBC. “I made the decision … I would hand in my notice. It is a bit raw and I have to move on.”
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In February, the U.K.’s General Medical Council, which oversees the registration of the country’s physicians, issued Bramhall a formal warning, according to The Guardian, noting his conduct “risks bringing the profession into disrepute and it must not be repeated.”
The organization told the paper on Wednesday it was standard to investigate doctors’ criminal convictions. (Neither the GMC nor Bramhall’s former hospital could immediately be reached for comment.)
Speaking out in February 2014, one of Bramhall’s former patients defended him even in light of the accusations against him.
“Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad?” Tracy Scriven told the Birmingham Mail. “I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life. It seems a bit silly, banning him from work. He’s a really good man who can do a really good job.”