A British surgeon, Simon Bramhall, 53, pleaded guilty in Birmingham Crown Court this month to two counts of assault by beating after he used an electric beam — typically used to seal blood vessels — to mark “SB” into a man’s and woman’s livers during their transplant operations in 2013, according to the Telegraph.
Liver surgeons use an argon beam to stop livers bleeding, but can also use the beam to burn the surface of the liver to sketch out the area of an operation.
It is usually not harmful and the marks would normally fade. But the female patient’s liver did not heal normally and the initials were found in a follow-up operation.
Bramhall will be sentenced on January 12.
Both patients had been under anesthetic when Bramhall put his initials on their livers.
Bramhall was a liver, spleen and pancreatic surgeon who worked at the liver unit within the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, West Midlands, for 12 years. He made headlines in 2010 after he performed a lifesaving transplant operation for a patient with a liver that was recovered from a private plane crash in Birmingham.
The offence of assault by beating was brought against Bramhall to reflect the act of marking the liver. He did not physically “beat” either patient.
Bramhall was suspended from the hospital in late 2013 following the discovery of the liver branding. Bramhall was reinstated in April 2014, pending an investigation, but then resigned from the hospital in May 2014, he said because of stress-induced illness, according to the Birmingham Mail.
Prosecutors said the case was “highly unusual and complex” and so far was “without legal precedent in criminal law,” according to the Telegraph.
Bramhall told the BBC he made “a mistake” branding livers with his initials.
Crown Prosecution Service specialist prosecutor Elizabeth Reid called Bramhall a “respected surgeon” who abused his power.
“It was intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anesthetized,” she said, according to the Telegraph.
The General Medical Council issued a warning to Bramhall, the Guardian reported. It is not clear if his name be removed as a registration physician.