Luigi Belcuore case: Surgeon backed by hospital

Prof James Richardson
Image caption Prof James Richardson was described as "highly experienced"

A surgeon cleared as fit to practice by a medical tribunal after a patient died has been backed by the Shropshire hospital where he works.

Luigi Belcuore, from Warwickshire, died in October 2009 when an operation on his knee went wrong at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital.

The Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service ruled the case against surgeon James Richardson was not proved.

The hospital said Prof Richardson is a "highly experienced" surgeon.

In a statement the hospital said it "deeply regrets" the unexpected death of Mr Belcuore .

The hospital expressed its "most heartfelt and sincere sympathies" to Mrs Belcuore and her family, for what must have been "an extremely distressing and traumatic time".

In January Mr Belcuore's family was awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation following his death.

Speaking after the award was made Mrs Belcuore said she was "shocked" the surgeon was allowed to continue practising after the death of her husband.

In its statement the hospital said Professor Richardson "is a highly experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeon and continues to work at the hospital".

Not 'reasonably foreseeable'

The tribunal heard that Prof Richardson had used a piece of equipment used to blow air into the knee joint, which he had modified specifically for the operation.

Over five weeks, the tribunal heard allegations Prof Richardson had failed to provide good clinical care, had not properly informed Mr Belcuore about the modified medical device being used and had failed to get proper consent for its use.

It was further alleged that Prof Richardson's actions had increased the risk of an air embolism occurring.

Image caption Father-of-three Luigi Belcuore died during a clinical trial in Shropshire

The Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service, after hearing from several expert witnesses, determined the four main points against Prof Richardson to be not proven.

A DVD of the operation was shown twice to the tribunal panel.

Michael Menlowe, the tribunal's chairman, said in regard to failures of good clinical care it noted the statement of one expert witness who said the surgery had been carried out "very skilfully" and "elegantly".

Mr Menlowe said another medical expert had gone on to say that "had the tragic incident of 20 October 2009 not occurred... (the) method of carrying out the procedure would have been widely adopted".

The panel had determined he "did not fail to provide good clinical care", and the tragic outcome was not "reasonably foreseeable", he said.

He also said Prof Richardson had "explained the procedure to Mr Belcuore" and stated "the expert witnesses were unanimous in their view that consent had been satisfactorily obtained".

It further accepted air had probably entered Mr Belcuore's blood through an "abnormal and undetectable" cyst, and found Prof Richardson's actions had not increased the risk of an air embolism.

The tribunal reported its findings on Saturday.

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