Bodies of evidence: the butcher surgeon

13 June 2022

The ITV documentary ‘Bodies of evidence: the butcher surgeon’ broadcast on Sunday 12 June uncovered more details in the shocking story of Birmingham-based breast surgeon Ian Paterson, now serving a 20-year prison sentence having been found guilty on 17 counts of wounding with intent in 2017.

In the documentary his victims described their experiences and the impact his unnecessary surgery had on their lives. The investigation into Ian Paterson’s malpractice is still on-going, with evidence that some of his patients may have died an unnatural death as a result of his actions. The Birmingham and Solihull Coroner has opened several inquests and say they are in the middle of an investigation potentially involving hundreds of patients.

And now it seems that art will imitate life with news that Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty and Bodyguard) is teaming up with ITV to develop a three-part mini-series which will tell the story of Paterson’s atrocities through the eyes of Debbie Douglas. She was one of the women who underwent a cleavage-sparing mastectomy even though her condition was not serious enough to warrant the operation or the seven-month course of chemotherapy she endured. 

Kashmir Uppal, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Shoosmiths, investigated and brought the first civil case against Paterson in 2010 and  is recognised as the lead solicitor in claims on behalf of his patients treated in the private sector.  She comments:

“The documentary explored how was Paterson allowed to hide in plain sight for so long and harm so many people. Some of the raw testimonies from those he injured were heart breaking and indicative of a dysfunctional system. However, it’s important to remember that this programme and the criminal trial related to breast surgery cases only. Paterson has injured hundreds more people in general surgery, with equally devastating consequences. Perhaps we should we be looking at further criminal charges?”

From 1993 until he was suspended in 2011, Paterson treated thousands of patients in both the NHS and private sector, carrying out needless breast surgeries and using unapproved techniques for breast cancer. His malpractice extended to general surgical procedures as well as breast surgery while he was working in both the NHS and private practice at Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital, Good Hope Hospital, Spire Hospital Parkway and Spire Hospital Little Aston.

The programme also included a contribution from the NHS whistle blower, Hemant Ingle, who worked alongside Paterson in the NHS and private sector. His evidence that Paterson had misdiagnosed cancer and performed unnecessary surgery including unregulated cleavage-sparing mastectomies helped convict the rogue surgeon. However, his concerns about Mr Paterson’s practice, which he raised in 2007, were largely ignored. After writing letters to senior managers in the NHS, they commissioned a report but this was kept private and Mr Ingle was moved to another hospital. He later also wrote to bosses at a private hospital where he and Paterson worked but those concerns too seemingly fell on deaf ears.

Concerns about Mr Paterson’s practice had in fact been raised as early as 2003, when one clinician carried out an audit of 100 NHS patients, questioning Paterson’s clinical competence and suggesting that his patients faced an increased risk of a recurrence of their cancer. The Trust’s managers responded by asking a senior clinician, Mr Wake, to carry out an investigation. A report was prepared and submitted in January 2004. It made a series of recommendations to make the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) work better but a number of other recommendations about Mr Paterson’s surgery were not acted upon.

Kashmir concludes:

“The documentary clearly demonstrated why the law needs to be changed to make private hospitals responsible for the acts of the private doctors that are given practising privileges at their hospitals.  It is disappointing that more than two years after Bishop James’ report, nothing has changed. Failures in clinical governance, which is effectively what happened when concerns raised by Mr Ingle and others were dismissed or ignored, will result in another Ian Paterson situation and many other patients being harmed.”



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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