Doctor Simon Bramhall, 53, was in a Birmingham Crown Court admitting a truly heinous act this week: burning his initials on the livers of two unconscious patients during transplant operations. While denying assault involving actual bodily harm, he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating.
Bramhall was working as a liver transplant surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital when he used an argon beam coagulator to burn his initials into the livers in 2013.
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC stated that the guilty pleas “reflect the fact that Dr Bramhall’s initialling on a patient’s liver was not an isolated incident but rather a repeated act on two occasions, requiring some skill and concentration. It was done in the presence of colleagues.”
What I fail to understand is why his colleagues were not also charged or at a minimum stripped of their licenses. Badenoch added “It will be for others to decide whether and to what extent his fitness to practice is impaired.” That is a chilling notion that somehow the question of his continuing to practice is still outstanding.
In addition to criminal liability, this horrific act would result in extensive civil liability in the United States against both the doctor and the hospital. Indeed, the knowledge of his colleagues would represent a broader range possible defendants. Not just malpractice but the intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery could be litigated.
The charge of “assault by beating” is a bit curious for Americans but the English code seems to favor this crime on any allegation involving battery. Battery is defined as intentionally and recklessly using unlawful force to another.