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Survival alone is not adequate measure of success, Bristol inquiry told

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 27 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:832
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    The mother of a child left brain damaged after a heart operation has urged the inquiry into the deaths of children at Bristol Royal Infirmary to review the audit of operations carried out at the hospital.

    Ms Penelope Plackett told the inquiry that an audit system that regarded survival after one month as a success was unacceptable.

    “My daughter Sophie is still classed as a success even though she cannot walk, see, talk, move, has epilepsy, and can't do anything for herself. But because she lived for more than 30 days after the operation she is still counted as a success, and I regard that as a travesty,” she said.

    The fourth day of the inquiry heard how Sophie was born with truncus arteriosis and was given an 80% chance of surviving surgery. But after an eight hour operation it became apparent that she had had extensive brain damage.

    The independent public inquiry is expected to last 18 months and cost up to £15m ($24m). It was set up by the health secretary, Frank Dobson, after a General Medical Council hearing ruled that surgeons James Wisheart and Janardan Dhasmana, and the former chief executive of the trust, Dr John Roylance, were all guilty of serious professional misconduct. Mr Wisheart and Dr Roylance were struck off, although Dr Roylance has since appealed against the decision. Mr Dhasmana was banned from operating on children for three years.

    The inquiry, which began almost exactly a decade after consultant anaesthetist Dr Stephen Bolsin first expressed concerns about the death rate in children undergoing surgery at the hospital, is expected to consider more than 2000 cardiac operations carried out between 1983 and 1984 and take evidence from more than 500 people.

    Nearly 30 of the families whose babies died after heart surgery at the hospital have accepted compensation of £20 000 each but the final number of claims is expected to be 166. Of those, 115 are claims for babies who died, four are for older children who died, and 47 are for cases involving children who survived, some of whom were brain damaged.

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