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Surgeon Admits to Branding His Initials on Patients' Organs During Surgery

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For patients, undergoing surgery is a nerve-wracking process. It requires trust that your doctors have your best interest at heart and won’t take advantage of your vulnerability while you’re under anesthesia or even just lying on the table. Violating his patients’ trust, a U.K. surgeon has plead guilty to two counts of assault, for “burning” his initials onto two patients’ livers during transplant surgeries.

Simon Bramhall appeared in court on Wednesday to enter his guilty plea, as well as a “not guilty” plea for another charge, assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

In 2013, Bramhall’s colleague at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, noticed “SB” written a patient’s liver during a follow-up surgery. Bramhall was suspended, and during the internal investigation, Bramhall resigned.

He marked his initials using an argon beam coagulator, which uses a beam of electricity to seal bleeding blood vessels.

Prosecutor Tony Badenoch said Bramhall’s guilty pleas reflect the fact that Bramhall actions were not an isolated incident, but rather a repeated act that required skill and concentration and was done in the presence of colleagues.

“It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anesthetized. His acts in marking the livers of those patients were deliberate and conscious acts,” he said in court, according to The Guardian.

At the time of his resignation, Bramhall told the press marking his initials had been a “mistake.”

“It is a bit raw and I have to move on,” he said.

Bramhall will be sentenced on January 12.

This isn’t the first time a doctor has marked their initials on a patient. In 1999, a woman discovered her OB/GYN had carved his initials into her abdomen after her cesarean section at Beth Israel Hospital in New York, as nurses screamed at him to stop.

While it doesn’t appear that Bramhall’s patients suffered long-term physical consequences due to his actions, others in the chronic illness community told The Mighty how actions like this violate patients’ trust and wellbeing.

Reanna Mathis, a Mighty contributor with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Chiari malformation said during stressful surgeries that require her to be completely dependent on other people, she is always calmed by the thought that she trusts her surgeon — making Bramhall’s actions “unspeakable.”

“He thought nothing of how this would affect the way the patients viewed any and all future interactions with doctors. The term ‘medical PTSD’ comes to mind,” Mathis said. “This was a violation of their body on a serious level when they believed themselves to be in safe hands.”

Ilana Kruger, a Mighty contributor with chronic illnesses that have required four surgeries and numerous procedures under anesthesia, agreed, calling Bramhall’s actions “a horrendous violation of patients’ bodies, privacy and trust.”

“It’s already scary enough to be under heavy medication and put your body and your life literally in the hands of your medical team. You expect them to be professional and have your health and safety in mind,” Kruger told The Mighty. “This surgeon should not be allowed within two feet of a hospital.”

When asked for comment, Queen Elizabeth Hospital told The Mighty it will not comment on Bramhall’s actions until after sentencing.

Getty photo by lyosha_nazarenko

Originally published: December 14, 2017
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