Ian Paterson, 59, a leading surgeon who worked for both NHS and private hospitals, was found guilty a fortnight ago of 17 counts of wounding with intent, relating to nine women and one man.
Thousands of patients were introduced to the leading breast surgeon during his career and he was well regarded by colleagues and patients. Patients put their trust in him as a medical professional, trust which was grossly abused by Paterson and instead used to his advantage. One victim, Carole Johnson told the jury that "we trusted Mr Paterson….. he was God to us".
The trial heard that, on many occasions Paterson had exaggerated the risk of cancer when patients consulted him, and often he recommended that patients undergo more expensive procedures. Paterson's actions led many patients to have unnecessary operations which left them physically disfigured, traumatised and financially drained.
Frances Perks, one of the victims, was referred to Paterson when a lump was found on a mammogram. Ms Perks was concerned about the lump as she had lost both her mother and sister to breast cancer. It is reported that Paterson advised her to have double mastectomy or risk developing cancer. Whilst in the care of Paterson, she underwent 9 operations, the last being a left mastectomy. She has now discovered that the lumps were benign and the operation should never have happened. Ms Perks was not only physically harmed at the hands of Paterson but also emotionally and financially. The stress of the operations meant that she left her job at a solicitor's office and the financial hardship meant she had no option but to sell her home.
In 2011 it emerged that Paterson had developed and had been performing an unorthodox and unregulated procedure known as cleavage-sparing mastectomy. The procedure leaves tissue around the cleavage area for cosmetic reasons. The technique contravenes national guidelines, as leaving excess tissue can increase the risk of cancer developing or returning. Marie Pinfield was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in August 2008. She approached Paterson and asked him to perform a double mastectomy. Instead of a double mastectomy, she woke up and realised that Paterson had performed this 'cleavage-sparing' surgical technique. She asked for a further operation to correct the work. However, subsequent delay in chemotherapy and radiotherapy meant that she developed secondary cancer in her lungs and passed away in October 2008.
It seems that Paterson had his own motives in carrying out these procedures, including his own financial gain. It has been reported that Paterson had an extravagant lifestyle, owning numerous properties. Some victims believe that he wanted to "play God" with their lives or gained a perverse sense of satisfaction from performing the procedures. Some have compared his acts to those of Harold Shipman.
Although not revealed at the trial, it has since become clear that Paterson had also carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients, resulting in the NHS paying out £17.8 million in damages and legal costs.
Private patients also want recourse against Paterson. It is reported that around 350 patients who underwent treatment at the hands of Paterson at Spire Healthcare clinics in the West Midlands are taking civil action against him.
Although Paterson was suspended by the General Medical Council in 2012, it is reported that Spire Healthcare clinics allowed him to continue to operate on patients. Patients want Paterson and Spire to answer for what has happened. Thompsons Solicitors, a firm representing the private patients said "we are determined to secure appropriate compensation for every single one of our clients".
Paterson has been granted bail and is due to be sentenced later in May. Although his conviction may be seen as a victory, many of his victims will be affected for the rest of their lives with both physical and psychological scars.
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