Breast surgeon found guilty of carrying out 'completely unnecessary' operations

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Ian Paterson court case

A breast surgeon has been convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent after carrying out a series of "completely unnecessary" operations - possibly to improve his earnings.

Ian Paterson, who was also convicted of three counts of unlawful wounding, was described in court by one victim as being "like God", lied to patients and exaggerated - or invented - the risk of cancer to convince them to go under the knife.

The 59-year-old did so for "obscure motives" which may have included a desire to "earn extra money", his trial at Nottingham Crown Court heard.

The Scottish-born surgeon had maintained that all the operations were necessary - but a jury of six men and five women agreed with the prosecution that Paterson carried out "extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason".

Paterson, wearing a black suit, blue shirt and red tie, sobbed as the foreman of the jury returned the guilty verdicts, as did his daughter Emily, who was also in court.

Jurors were told at the start of the trial they should not conduct any research into the case - and were not told that hundreds of Paterson's patients were recalled in 2012 after concerns about unnecessary or incomplete operations.

The Scottish-born surgeon was suspended by the General Medical Council that same year amid claims he carried out so-called cleavage-sparing mastectomies (CSMs) which led to the recall of more than 700 patients.

A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association revealed that 68 women who underwent a CSM - in which part of the breast was left for cosmetic reasons - by Paterson on the NHS had gone on to develop a recurrence of breast cancer.

Figures also revealed that the NHS has paid out nearly £18 million, of which £9.5 million was damages, following claims from nearly 800 patients of Paterson - a fact which the jury were not made aware of during proceedings.

Paterson's seven-week trial heard harrowing testimony from 10 patients treated in the private sector between 1997 and 2011 at the Little Aston and Parkway hospitals in the West Midlands, with one victim telling jurors: "That person has ruined my life."

The victims - nine women and one man - told the court they believed they were seriously ill after seeing Paterson, with one patient saying she was described as a "cancer ticking bomb" and another convinced she had cancer - rather than merely being at risk of developing it.

Others who suffered at his hands included Leanne Joseph, who is said to have agreed to two "unnecessary operations", leaving her unable to breastfeed, after he told her it was a "small price to pay for her life".

The mother - aged 25 when she had the operations in 2006 - was left paranoid and developed OCD after later giving birth, fearing for the immune system of her daughter who is now eight years old.

Jurors heard that Mrs Joseph "was very concerned almost to the point of paranoia that (her daughter) was going to catch an illness" from husband of 10 years Mark as a result of not feeding naturally.

Another victim, Joanne Lowson, was left with a "significant deformity in her visible cleavage area" after a pair of unneeded operations on her left breast by Paterson in 2010.

Judge Jeremy Baker thanked the jurors for their service and adjourned sentencing.

Pamela Jain, from the CPS, said: "Ian Paterson carried out procedures which no reasonable surgeon would have considered justified and he knew the operations were unnecessary.

"The prosecution evidence showed how Paterson breached the trust of his victims by convincing them to undergo surgical procedures.

"I would like to pay tribute to the victims in this case who bravely came forward to give their evidence, which was of a very personal nature."

Speaking after the verdicts, victim Carole Johnson, who went under Paterson's knife six times in seven years, said: "Our long wait for justice is finally over.

"Paterson tried every tactic in the book to avoid accountability for his disgusting crimes and I am relieved that his heinous actions have finally caught up with him.

"Mr Paterson charmed and manipulated his patients into trusting him. I for one trusted him with my life.

"To realise that I was betrayed makes me question my own judgment and I feel like I cannot trust any doctor.

"We have all been through the most horrendous of times. All we wanted was some form of justice for what we have been through and today has finally delivered that."

Emma Doughty, a specialist medical lawyer with law firm Slater and Gordon - representing dozens of Paterson's victims - said: "My clients have had to endure years of uncertainty and mental torture which has compounded the physical pain that Mr Paterson cruelly inflicted on them.

"Now, they are hugely relieved that a small piece of justice has finally been done.

"Paterson's barbarous acts of cruelty have hugely impacted many hundreds of people. I now hope they can start to rebuild and move on with their lives."

Paterson, who faces a maximum life sentence, was able to own a luxury home in Birmingham's Edgbaston, had numerous properties in Cardiff and Manchester and also had a US holiday home, West Midlands Police said.

Chief Superintendent Mark Payne said: "The procedures carried out by Ian Paterson on vulnerable patients were unnecessary and caused physical suffering, scars and wounds to the patients.

"Also, as a result of his greed and arrogance, many of the patients have suffered psychologically, believing they needed to undergo the procedures because they were at risk from breast cancer.

"Paterson was a renowned and experienced surgeon who instilled complete confidence in his patients and therefore abused his position of trust.

"Of the 11 victims he was charged with in relation to this case, none had breast cancer, and yet he led them to believe they were at risk.

"This was cruel and unnecessarily led to many people suffering and living in fear.

"Paterson was a controlling bully, who played God with people's lives so he could live a luxurious lifestyle."

Sara Burns, a medical negligence partner at Irwin Mitchell, said the impact of Paterson on his victims was "life-changing".

She added: "The numbers of people affected are staggering and it is crucial that the whole healthcare industry learns from this as soon as possible to improve policies and checks and prevent any possible repeats."