I did a story for Autograph Magazine over a decade ago, about people that got autographs on their body and then had them tattooed. That lead to somebody sending a letter to the editor, showing their entire back tattooed by the Chicago Bears, with his shaved head having the Bears logo tattooed on it. Yes, fans can be hardcore.
Yet this story takes the tattooing of a name or initials...a bit too far. A surgeon in Birmingham, England named Simon Bramhall, has plead guilty to marking his initials on the livers of two patients he performed transplant surgery on. I know. I’m as confused about it all as you are. I mean...it’s one thing to have an artist sign or initial a painting or sculpture they created. But unless you’re planning on having Hannibal Lecter take a liver from you...who is even going to see it? Well, somebody did, and that’s how he was caught.
The 53-year-old doctor is a liver, spleen, and pancreas surgeon...and I’m sure he’s one of the best in his field. Yet I’m sure the patient would’ve been just as happy with the doctors name or initials on the medical report. Instead, the surgeon used an argon laser beam, which is usually used to stop livers bleeding during operations and to highlight the area that will be worked on. The doctor figured...well heck, I’m already in here, why not let others know who did this fine work. Supposedly, the marks left by the laser won’t impair the organ’s function, although I’d be worried about scar tissue. It seems any part of the surgery that is unnecessary isn’t good.
Now, you might be asking yourself how this was discovered. Perhaps a nurse that was also complaining of sexual harassment that saw him do this? Nope. It was a follow-up surgery on one of Bramhall’s patients. Another doctor spotted the “SB” on an organ, and probably assumed it didn’t stand for “Super Bowl.” Although if he were standing on the other side of the patient, he would’ve seen a big “BS.”
Bramhall resigned, and didn’t say much. Joyce Robins of Patient Concern, said “This is a patient we are talking about, not an autograph book.”
The prosecutor told the court it was a “highly unusual and complex case….without legal precedent in criminal law. It was not just ethically wrong but criminally wrong. They reflect the fact that Dr. Bramhall’s initialling on a patient’s liver was not an isolated incident but rather a repeated actor on two occasions, requiring some skill and concentration. It was done in the presence of colleagues. It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anaesthetised.”
Former patient Tracy Scriven said she thinks the surgeon should be reinstated because, “Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad? I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life.”
What I would explain to Scriven is that a stat once stated that 1 in 100 patients put to sleep during surgery never wake up. So keeping somebody under longer than they needed to be...or keeping doctors and nurses busy while you do that...who could clearly be doing other things...is more than enough to sink this guy.
Bramhall had made the news previously, when in 2010, he successfully performed transplant surgery using a liver that had been salvaged from a plane that crashed in fog at Birmingham airport.