Ellie Roberts looks at the appalling offences of Breast Surgeon, Mr Paterson, and the difficulties now facing his victims as they seek to obtain compensation for their injuries.
Who is Ian Paterson?
In April 2017 Mr Paterson was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent, relating to 9 women and 1 man. Mr Paterson was also found to have invented cancer risks in order to persuade patients into having unnecessary surgery and was convicted of a further 3 wounding charges.
Mr Paterson invented a ‘cleavage sparing mastectomy’, which is an incomplete mastectomy, whereby Mr Paterson deliberately left the breast tissue on the inner aspects of his patient’s breasts and which would have increased the chance of breast cancer returning to the patients.
Figures published by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust suggest that of the 4,424 patients that Mr Paterson treated on the NHS 1,207 were given a mastectomy including cleavage-sparing operations. 675 of those patients have now died and a further 68 have seen their cancer return.
It is estimated that 700 patients underwent extensive, life-changing operations by breast surgeon, Ian Paterson, for no medically justifiable reason.
Questions were raised about Mr Paterson’s practice in 2003 however it took until October 2012 for the GMC to suspend Mr Paterson following a full investigation. It is estimated that Mr Paterson operated on thousands of patients, some of whom have subsequently passed away from cancer following his failure to remove all of the cancerous tissue.
Last month Mr Paterson was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Seeking justice for his victims
Mr Paterson, Consultant Breast Surgeon performed operations whilst working for Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Spire Hospital in Birmingham.
The NHS has already paid out £9.5 million in compensation claims to 250 of Mr Paterson’s victims and future pay-outs are now expected for the recalled patients.
However, patients who were treated on a private basis by Mr Paterson at the Spire Hospital in Birmingham face increasing concerns that they will not receive any compensation due to a loophole in Mr Paterson’s insurance policy.
Whilst Spire Healthcare has paid compensation to some patients, the group has refused so far to pay out in the vast majority of cases. The Spire Hospital Group have stated that as they did not employ Mr Paterson (he was self-employed) that they are not liable for his actions. Mr Paterson did have the benefit of insurance cover with the Medical Defence Union (MDU).
The MDU have written to the lawyers representing hundreds of victims to advise that they “should have no expectations of any continuing MDU involvement in this matter… MDU cover is discretionary and may legitimately be withdrawn if a surgeon’s practice falls outside of the insurance terms”.
The court will now have to decide who is legally responsible to pay for the damage that Mr Paterson has caused.
There are also calls for a public inquiry to consider how Mr Paterson was able to operate in the way he did, and why this was only addressed after he had injured hundreds if not thousands of patients.
I eagerly await the outcome of the indemnity position and sincerely hope that the victims of Mr Paterson’s horrific treatment are able to achieve redress for what they’ve been through. Please get in touch if you wish to discuss this case or any other clinical negligence matter.