Surgeons must know their limitations, but so must governments

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 20 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:124

The children's heart surgery deaths at Bristol illustrate the danger of surgeons not knowing their limitations, says Professor Peter Bell, consultant vascular surgeon and vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons. He talks to Debashis Singh of his concerns that new regulations will inhibit surgeons

Professor Peter Bell is sitting behind his large desk on which he involuntarily taps his hand as he speaks about the nature of fate. Behind him is a myriad of photos of him at rest—most of which show him playing in the garden with his grandchildren. The subject of fate arises when we discuss his career path, which on the surface would seem to belong to a ferociously ambitious being. “I've never had any ambition. It may sound strange, but it's true actually. You can ask my wife if you don't believe me. I've just done the job as best I can,” he says in his native Yorkshire accent.

At the age of 34 he went to Leicester and was the first professor of surgery at the general hospital. He went on to establish a surgical department that grew from the humble beginnings of a semidetached house shared with the department of medicine to an internationally recognised department. “You had to …

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