Yacoub cleared of negligence

Parents lose claim for damages over brain-damaged son

A couple whose son was left brain damaged after a heart transplant carried out by Sir Magdi Yacoub lost their claim for damages yesterday after a judge ruled they had been properly warned of the risks.

Kevin and Linda Poynter said they would never have allowed the operation by Britain's leading heart transplant surgeon to go ahead had they had an inkling of what the outcome might be. They said they would have preferred to let their 16-month-old son Matthew die in peace, and only agreed to the transplant after being put under pressure by the medical team.

But Sir Maurice Drake, giving judgment in the High Court, rejected the claim that the doctors had been too zealous or had underplayed the risks. He found that the couple had not asked directly about the risk of brain damage and that it would have been unlikely to have altered their decision if they had. Faced with the prospect of an 80 per cent chance of survival for their son through surgery, or certain death, most other parents faced with the same situation would also have consented.

The outcome means Mr and Mrs Poynter, of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, who were legally aided, must continuing caring for Matthew, now aged 10, without financial help. He is profoundly brain damaged and needs round-the-clock care.

The couple are vegetarians and were resistant to the idea of a transplant. Mr Poynter, an osteopath, told the court: "The heart is not just a pump, it is part of the person, part of the mind, body and soul".

Matthew, who was born in August 1986, developed a heart condition in which the left ventricle became enlarged. He was seen at the local hospital in Stevenage by a cardiologist from Harefield who referred the baby to the heart transplant centre. According to their solicitor, Tom Osborne, the couple were not opposed to orthodox medicine and gave Matthew the drugs he was prescribed. But they were against a transplant.

"However, the doctors at Harefield persuaded them that they had no rational case for opposing it. They were told that either the boy would die in a few days or he would live for two or three years a near normal life. They felt they had no choice."

The transplant was a success and the new heart still functions 10 years later. Matthew was the 30th child in the country to receive a heart transplant and one of the youngest. But he was so ill at the time of the operation that he suffered a cardiac arrest when given the anaesthetic and his heart was kept going with massage for 30 minutes until he could be attached to a heart-bypass machine. It is believed the brain damage occurred during this period.

He is the only one of the 177 children who have had heart transplants at Harefield who has suffered brain damage.

Sir Magdi told the court the risk was so small - less than 1 per cent - that he would not tell parents about it unless specifically asked.

Transplant surgeons yesterday agreed it was impractical, and could be unwise, to tell patients of every conceivable risk. Bob Johnson, kidney surgeon and chairman of the British Transplant Society, said: "We tell patients about the classical risks - of dying, of the organ being rejected, of side-effects of the immuno-suppressant drugs. But you can't go through every remote risk."

JAfterwards, the couple's solicitor said that the pounds 250,000 cost of the legal battle against Hillingdon Health Authority would have been better spent on healthcare for children like Matthew than in forcing the authority to respect parents views.

Brooding pioneer at the heart of Britain's transplant programme

For 17 years Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub has led the heart transplant programme in Britain. With his huge domed forehead and dark, brooding eyes peering out above a theatre mask he has become one of medicine's few, instantly recognisable, faces, writes Jeremy Laurance.

He operated on his first patient at Harefield hospital in January 1980, a few months after Sir Terence English had performed the first successful transplant in the United Kingdom at Papworth hospital, Cambridgeshire.

Although neither man courted publicity, the patrician Sir Terence, with his fondness for country walks, contrasted with the missionary style of Sir Magdi who seemed truly fulfilled only in the operating theatre.

In the early days, Sir Magdi's relentless demands on staff and resources provoked criticism from those who saw other specialties depleted. Now heart transplants are an accepted part of the surgical repertoire. More than 300 operations a year are performed in Britain and Harefield is among the world's leading centres. Last year, Harefield completed its 2,000th heart transplant. Half the patients are still alive. Today, a new patient has a 60 per cent chance of surviving 10 years. Britain's longest survivor, Derrick Morris, aged 65, was Sir Magdi's third patient and has lived for 16 years since the operation.

Sir Magdi, 60, has given no hint that he is thinking of retiring. He still keeps a punishing schedule, working long hours, nights and weekends.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on