53-Year-Old Surgeon Caught after Branding Initials into Patients' Livers


You’ve heard of malpractice. You’ve heard of surgeries gone wrong.

But have you heard of a surgeon deliberately branding patients’ organs? Because I certainly haven’t.

Until now, that is. Dr. Simon Bramhall was consultant surgeon for Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth through the UK’s National Health Service.

He isn’t anymore, after being suspended for his actions and then subsequently resigning in 2014.

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He continued to be a surgeon, though. He now works for Hereford County Hospital in Herefordshire, UK.

But what exactly did he do, and how? And then how on earth did anyone find out?

Well, he branded his own initials into the livers of two of his patients — once in February 2013 and once in August of the same year. One patient was receiving that liver in a life-saving donation and operation.

When that liver failed about a week later, that patient received a different one. But during that operation, a different surgeon spotted the initials “SB” on the failed liver.

So, on to the “how.” Bramhall used what’s called an argon beam coagulator, a machine used to “seal bleeding blood vessels,” to brand the liver.

According to medical experts, “the ‘burning’ of organs using the argon beam process would not have caused damage to health or affected clinical outcomes for patients.”

But that doesn’t make it OK! If someone branded one of my organs with their own initials, I would not be a happy camper.

Bramhall was arrested and, after a lot of discussion about how to actually handle such a strange case, was charged with “assault by beating,” even though he didn’t physically attack either patient. No surprise that there was no specific law formulated about this sort of malfeasance — but there might have to be one now.

Tony Badenoch QC (which stands for Queen’s Counsel) said, “This has been a highly unusual and complex case, both within the expert medical testimony served by both sides and in law.

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“The pleas of guilty now entered represent an acceptance that that which he did was not just ethically wrong but criminally wrong.” I can understand how identifying a specific crime to charge him with would be difficult.

His sentence, according to NPR, is to do 120 hours of community service and pay a fine of £10,000 — over $13,600. I can understand not jailing him, but that still seems to be a bit low for such a strange, violating thing to do to a patient who trusted you to operate on them.

How would you feel if someone branded one of your organs, even if it caused no problems at all? Share this story and let us know!

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