A consultant surgeon who burned his initials on to the livers of two unconscious patients has been given a community order and fined £10,000.
Simon Bramhall, 53, told police he used an argon beam machine to initial the organs to relieve operating theatre tensions following difficult and long transplant operations in 2013.
Birmingham Crown Court was told one of the victims suffered serious psychological harm as a result of the branding, while the other was traced through hospital records but “did not wish to engage” with police.
Bramhall, of Tarrington in Herefordshire, was ordered to complete 120 hours of community service and pay £1,500 in prosecution costs.
One of the 4cm-high sets of initials was found by another surgeon after a victim, referred to in court as Patient A, returned for further treatment around a week after undergoing a transplant.
Opening the facts of the case, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said Bramhall told a nurse who witnessed the second offence: “I do this.”
Bramhall later told police officers that “in hindsight” he had been naive and foolhardy during a “misjudged attempt to relieve the tension in theatre”.
Judge Paul Farrer QC said Bramhall had used the argon beam coagulator – designed to seal bleeding blood vessels – to carry out an “an abuse of power” and a betrayal of trust.
The consultant, who was given a formal warning by the General Medical Council (GMC) last February, admitted two counts of assault by beating last month after prosecutors accepted his not guilty pleas to charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The judge said: “This was conduct born of professional arrogance of such magnitude that it strayed into criminal behaviour.
“I accept that you didn’t intend or foresee anything but the most trivial of harm would be caused.”
Bramhall, who resigned from Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2014 and now works for the NHS in Herefordshire, left court without comment.
Frank Ferguson, head of special crime at the CPS, said Bramhall was a highly-respected surgeon to whom many patients owed their lives.
Asked about the doctor’s motive after the court hearing, Mr Ferguson said: “Clearly he did not anticipate that it would be seen.
“As far as we know it’s a unique case in terms of the facts and demonstrates really the vulnerability of patients and the degree of trust they place in their surgeons when they are having an operation, and the importance that that trust is protected and respected by doctors.”
Patient A declined Bramhall’s offer of an apology after the “unbelievable and farcical” allegations emerged in late 2013 and opted to report the matter to the General Medical Council and the police.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Patient A stated: “The overwhelming feeling of violation was intense.”
Around 20 well-wishers – some of whom underwent organ transplants conducted by Bramhall – attended the court hearing to support him.
Defence barrister Michael Duck QC said: “A number of people who sit in this court are able to sit in this court because of the skill of Mr Bramhall.”