Weeping surgeon apologises to families

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The Independent Online
A SURGEON wept yesterday as he apologised to the families of children who died in the Bristol heart baby scandal.

Janardan Dhasmana said: "I express regret to the parents of all children who have unfortunately died and I wish I could turn the clock back, but it is not possible and I can't really do any more."

Mr Dhasmana was appearing at the public inquiry in Bristol into the treatment of babies who had complex heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary in the 12 years to 1995. Mr Dhasmana has been found guilty of serious professional misconduct by a General Medical Council investigation into complex heart surgery on babies at the hospital. He was banned from operating on children for three years.

He told the inquiry yesterday: "Whatever suffering I have gone through is no match to the suffering of losing a child. I am not a cavalier surgeon. I did not and I do not risk any patient's life unless I believe fully I can benefit them. Unfortunately it didn't work. I wish I had not operated on those children.

"I never believed in using patients as guinea-pigs. I followed the practice at the time as I saw my elders and seniors doing. I do not consider myself an incompetent doctor and I hope the inquiry finds that out.

"They have ruined me professionally, financially. My family life has gone and I have lost confidence in myself. This is the first time in two years I have been able to speak to an audience. I wasn't sure on Monday I could stand this but this courage has come from support which I have got from my relatives, patients and parents who have continued to support me."

Referring to the arterial switch operation on newborn babies, with which he had an initial death rate of 100 per cent, he said: "Why did I go on doing it? I wish I had not, I wish I had a crystal ball."

The inquiry was told he performed his last arterial switch in January 1995 on Joshua Loveday, aged one and a half. He was admitted on 11 January and doubts were expressed over whether Mr Dhasmana should be allowed to operate.

An emergency meeting was held, and Mr Dhasmana said he felt "good", adding: "I thought people supported me and expressed their trust and belief in me." That evening, Joshua's parents were told their son had died on the operating table.

The General Medical Council inquiry was told Mr Dhasmana had to repeat the operation, prolonging the time Joshua's heart was stopped. One of his coronary arteries was also severed. Mr Dhasmana said "morale was very low" after Joshua died, and that people who had previously supported him had become hostile.

Asked by Brian Langstaff, the inquiry's counsel, if he should have told Joshua's parents of the concerns raised at the meeting, Mr Dhasmana said: "That is my deepest regret ... that I didn't really tell the parents everything." The inquiry continues today.

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