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Surgeon Who Burned His Initials On Patients' Livers Gets $14K Fine

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The British surgeon who burned his initials on patients' livers using an argon beam machine got a £10,000 ($13,600) fine and a 12-month community order.

The argon beam machine he used to burn his initials is typically used to stop bleeding during surgery, or to mark the area for operation.

Surgeon Brands His Initials On Patients' Livers

The 53-year-old surgeon, Simon Bramhall, signed his initials — "SB" on two patients' livers during transplant surgery. The marks the argon beam machine leaves on the liver disappear in time and do not affect the function of the organ, but the surgeon's deed raised a great deal of controversy and the "branded" patients feel violated.

Bramhall was a consultant surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham back in 2013, when a fellow surgeon performed a follow-up surgery on a patient and found the initials "SB" branded onto the patient's liver. According to a photo taken on a smartphone, the branding measured 4 centimeters in height, or roughly 1.57 inches.

An internal investigation into his conduct revealed that another patient got the same treatment, with the surgeon's initials branded on her liver. Bramhall resigned from his position at the hospital in the summer of 2014, while the investigation was still ongoing, but he was still allowed to practice. He's currently employed in Herefordshire, at NHS.

The matter did not go away, and in December 2017, the surgeon pled guilty to two counts of assault by beating for the two branding incidents that took place on Feb. 9 and Aug. 21, 2013. He pled not guilty to more severe charges of assault causing bodily harm, and prosecutors accepted it.

Professional Arrogance Led To Criminal Behavior

"This case is about his practice on two occasions, without the consent of the patient and for no clinical reason whatsoever, to burn his initials on to the surface of a newly transplanted liver," says Tony Badenoch QC, the prosecutor who handled the case against Bramhall.

Badenoch acknowledged that the surgeon's branding did not cause any harm to the patients' liver, but the practice is still highly immoral and borderline criminal.

Judge Paul Farrer QC, presiding over the case, reckoned that both liver transplant operations were difficult and long, which likely made the surgeon stressed and tired, clouding his judgement.

"This was conduct born of professional arrogance of such magnitude that it strayed into criminal behavior," says Farrer. "What you did was an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust that these patients had invested in you."

The judge added that the surgeon did not anticipate nor intend any harm, but that still doesn't make things right.

Bramhall now has to pay a £10,000 ($13,600) fine and perform 120 hours of unpaid work to make amends for his actions.

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