Ian Paterson victims' families call for manslaughter charges

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Ian PatersonImage source, SWNS
Image caption,
Paterson is serving a 20-year jail term for 17 counts of wounding with intent

Jailed breast surgeon Ian Paterson should face manslaughter charges, say relatives of patients who died.

An independent inquiry into Paterson's malpractice has recommended the recall of his surviving patients for their surgery to be assessed. Meanwhile, police and a coroner are reviewing the deaths of 23 of his patients.

'He should get life'

Image source, Family handout
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Alan Bridgewater was married to Denise for 44 years before she died from cancer

Denise Bridgewater was introduced to Ian Paterson after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. He performed the dangerous surgery he had pioneered - a 'cleavage-sparing' mastectomy where he only removed a small amount of tissue to allow women to keep some shape to their breasts.

Her cancer returned in 2010 and, despite then having a full, double mastectomy, she died four years later. Her husband Alan believes Paterson is responsible for her death because of the unorthodox surgery he performed at an early stage.

"She had pneumonia, septicaemia, renal failure and ended up in a wheelchair. She struggled along and then cancer came back again in 2013 and unfortunately because of the renal failure the cancer passed to the lungs," said Mr Bridgewater. The couple even missed their son's wedding while Mrs Bridgewater was in intensive care.

"She's got six grandkids; she never saw two of them because they were born after she passed away.

"If Paterson had done the surgery correctly in the first place I think she'd still have had a fighting chance - she wouldn't have had the septicaemia or renal failure or pneumonia."

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Mr Bridgewater says Paterson should be brought back to court over the deaths of his patients

Mr Bridgewater said he could not understand how Paterson was able to continue working when other surgeons repeatedly flagged up their concerns.

"It's not just a one-off case, it's obvious he was doing something wrong. He should have been stopped by the people above.

"He's an evil guy who's just out to make money for himself and people died as a result of that."

Mr Bridgewater, who was married to Denise for 44 years, called for Paterson to be brought back to court over his patients' deaths.

"If there are charges for manslaughter then he should get life."

'I am sad that so many young women are dead'

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Ann Butler's cancer returned after Paterson performed botched surgery on her

Ann Butler was treated by Ian Paterson while he worked for the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

She too had breast tissue left behind after her mastectomy and her cancer returned. After a full mastectomy she was eventually free of the disease, but had years of worry waiting for the all-clear.

Mrs Butler is furious with the health trust - and wants to see those responsible for allowing Paterson to continue practising, despite the many warnings, to be held to account.

"For 10 years - because my cancer did come back - I was at risk. It could have spread at any time during that," she said.

"What horrified me more than what Paterson had done to me was the fact that the trust had known for so long and had not protected us.

"Initially I was more angry with the trust than I was with Paterson. He could have thought he was doing me a favour - he was wrong."

Regarding the decision to review the deaths of 23 of Paterson's patients, Mrs Butler said: "I'm very pleased - it should have been done ages ago.

"I hope they [the coroner and the police] don't just look at the 23. I hope they are able to prove that some people are guilty of manslaughter, or corporate manslaughter.

"I am sad that so many young women are dead and lots of young children are without their mothers."

Like many of Paterson's surviving victims, Mrs Butler is calling for new legislation for surgeons.

"No matter how many people make recommendations, if they're not implemented it's a waste of time. Everybody who works in the health service needs to be professionally and legally accountable for everything they do or they don't do.

"If the government don't do anything about it, it's been a waste of money and a waste of time."

'The man is an absolute monster'

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Despite several operations by Paterson, Lesley Cuthbert discovered she never had cancer in the first place

Lesley Cuthbert, aged 71, had operations on both breasts after being told she had cancer in her milk ducts.

She found out years later she never cancer in the first place - and that all the operations Paterson had told her she needed were completely unnecessary.

"Paterson kept me going back for consultations until eventually he sat me down and told me 'I've cleared you of cancer'. I was so in awe of this man who'd taken this nasty stuff out of my body," she said.

"When it was revealed in the newspapers and this was all coming out in the news, I kept saying 'no this man saved my life, I'm in debt to this man'. Shortly afterwards I got that re-call letter and was told I'd never had cancer.

"To be told you've got cancer is a big thing in itself, to have to tell your family is another big thing, awful. And then at the end of it all to be told you never had cancer in the first place… well that was just enormous. Unbelievable. I just could not believe it."

She said the surgeon had "knocked her faith in the medical profession".

"He's a monster, the man is an absolute monster. He really is.

"Regulations have got to be set in place so this sort of thing cannot be allowed to happen again. It's so important and if people are going to be treated in the private sector they have to be assured they can walk through those doors and the hospital will have a duty of care to protect you."

'We need to look at manslaughter charges'

Image source, PA Media

Kashmir Uppal, from Shoosmiths, is representing Ms Cuthbert and other women treated by Paterson at several hospitals.

"They [his victims] want accountability for the management, who could have stopped Paterson... who should have stopped Paterson.

"What's the consequences for the management that failed? As far as we're aware there have been no repercussions for them.

"We need to look at manslaughter charges. These cases will probably relate to women who actually had breast cancer which came back [following cleavage sparing surgery].

"Causation will still need to be established and then we need to look at corporate manslaughter.

"It takes charges like this before things really change."