A Hindu woman won £4,000 in damages yesterday seven years after she underwent surgery on her nose that used cartilage taken from a cow – an animal deemed to be sacred by her faith.
Minthi Ghosh, 34, claimed she was never told the procedure used bovine cartilage and would not have consented had she known its origin because its use was considered sacrilegious by Hindus.
The schools administrator underwent the rhinoplasty operation – to correct a small lump on the bridge of her nose and a slight bend – in 1994, but only learnt of the animal cartilage when complaining about a separate matter a year later.
During the ensuing six-year legal battle Miss Ghosh, originally of East Boldon, Sunderland, said she had suffered depression because of the operation. She said cartilage had also been removed from her ear without her consent during the operation.
She said: "I felt like some sort of experiment in a Nazi concentration camp. I went to doctors because I had a problem with my nose. There was never any mention of implants from my own body and certainly no mention of bovine implants."
After waking from the operation at Sunderland General Hospital, Miss Ghosh found her mouth swollen and stitched to close an incision made in her upper lip and further stitches in her right ear. She said she was left in pain and had trouble breathing as a result of the surgery, carried out by the consultant surgeon Leo Stassen, and obtained her records to file a complaint.
Miss Ghosh said: "It was only after I got access to the records that I found out about the cow cartilage. As a Hindu, the cow is sacred and you are not supposed to do anything that will be seen as sacrilegious to the animal. Inserting part of a cow in your body would certainly be seen as that."
Brijmohan Gupta, chairman of the Hindu Culture and Heritage Society, said: "The cow represents the mother in India's agricultural society – the provider of milk and nourishment and therefore not be touched. For a Hindu to have tissue from a cow inserted in his or her body would be very serious."
Drug producers have already widely dropped the use of animal gelatine to make capsules after concern from vegetarians and ethnic groups.
A spokesman for Sunderland Royal Hospitals' NHS Trust said: "We are pleased that we have been able to reach a settlement with the lady. It has taken a number of years and that is regrettable. The case has caused great distress to the lady and her family. But its circumstances are fairly unique."
Miss Ghosh, who now lives in London, said that she was considering surgery – which could now cost up to £11,000 – to remove the bovine cartilage, despite medical warnings that it could cause the collapse of her nose.Reuse content