Jury clears surgeon of killing schoolgirl

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A consultant surgeon described as foul-mouthed and disrespectful was cleared of the manslaughter of a teenage leukaemia patient yesterday.

Kenneth Woodburn, 39, mouthed "thank you" when the jury returned its verdict after 50 minutes of deliberations at the end of an 11-day trial at Truro Crown Court.

Kelly Dent, aged 16, died when a procedure to insert a catheter went wrong during the final part of her treatment for myeloid leukaemia two years ago. Kelly was in remission at the time of the procedure to administer drugs and take samples at Treliske Hospital in Truro, Cornwall.

Two nurses in Mr Woodburn's team told the trial he was aggressive and disrespectful to his patient during the operation, and used foul language throughout. He pushed so hard when inserting a drugs line in Kelly's chest that the wall of her heart ruptured.

He admitted he had sworn but denied losing his temper

Outside court, Dr George Fernie read a statement on behalf of Mr Woodburn expressing his sympathy for the dead girl's family. "The past two years have been very difficult for him but nothing can compare with grieving for the death of a child. After taking some time with his family he looks forward to returning to work in the new year," said Dr Fernie.The dead girl's mother, Carol Dent, who had been in court throughout the trial, wept in the public gallery after the verdict. Speaking later, she said she felt only "bits of the truth" had emerged. "As far as I was concerned it was an accident on the operating table," she said.

Kelly's leukaemia had been diagnosed in May 1998. She went on to pass 11 GCSEs: "But she never knew her results, they were in the paper the day she died," her mother said.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at an inquest into her death in February 1999, and the hospital then offered Mrs Dent £7,500 compensation, which she accepted.

Brian Milstead, the chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, expressed his sympathy to Kelly's family. He said Mr Woodburn was a "very valued member of staff".

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