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Bristol surgeon loses High Court bid
Mr Janardan Dhasmana
Mr Janardan Dhasmana failed in a bid to rescue his career
A High Court bid by a surgeon at the centre of the Bristol heart babies scandal to force the Health Secretary to hear an appeal has failed.

Mr Janardan Dhasmana had hoped to save his career by launching a successful appeal bid.

His lawyer told the court that the surgeon felt he had been made a scapegoat following the outcry over the deaths of babies and children who underwent complex heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary.


The claimant (Mr Dhasmana) considers the NHS Trust has made him the scapegoat

Beverley Lang QC
Ms Beverley Lang QC, appearing for the surgeon, said Mr Dhasmana, now 58, also felt he had been "tricked" out of the chance to appeal under NHS regulations when his employers, the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust, dismissed him and made him a payment in lieu of notice.

The court heard that Mr Dhasmana had found it impossible to find work since because of the stigma surrounding his sacking.

Ms Lang asked for permission to seek judicial review and an order overturning the Health Secretary's refusal in May this year to entertain an appeal under Paragraph 190 of the NHS terms and conditions of service for hospital, medical and dental staff.

Application rejected

However, Mr Justice Scott Baker rejected the application.

He rule that the minister had no power to allow the appeal to go ahead before a panel of medical experts.

Paragraph 190 could only be invoked when a contract of employment remained in force and a doctor was serving out his notice, said the judge.

By the time Mr Dhasmana applied for an appeal, he had accepted a payment in lieu of notice and his employment had been terminated.

The judge said: "He had lawyers acting for him at the time and the termination letter was sent not only to him but his lawyers.

"It appears neither they nor he spotted the significance of accepting the payment of three months salary in lieu of notice."

During the hearing, Ms Lang told the court: "The claimant (Mr Dhasmana) considers the NHS Trust has made him the scapegoat for the failures in paediatric care at Bristol Royal Infirmary which attracted a great deal of public attention.

"It seems to him this was because of political and public pressure."

Ms Lang said Mr Dhasmana had never given the trust his informed consent to take the action it did, and felt that he felt he had "been the victim of a trick".

She added: "He had no idea that money automatically sent into his bank account which he didn't send back meant losing his Paragraph 190 appeal."

Biggest inquiry

The public inquiry into the Bristol case is the biggest in NHS history.

Initially 29 babies were thought to have died or been brain damaged, but experts have now suggested that many more were affected in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In June 1998, the General Medical Council ordered that James Wisheart, the senior surgeon, should have his name erased from the medical register.

Mr Dhasmana, the second surgeon, was banned from operating on children for three years.

Although he could continue working with adults, he was later dismissed by his employers.

It had been found that, in respect of one child, he went ahead with surgery when the level of concern about the death rates at Bristol were such that he should not have proceeded with the operation.

Mr Dhasmana broke down in tears when giving evidence to the inquiry last December.

He told the inquiry: "I am not a cavalier surgeon. I did not and I do not risk any patient's life unless I believe fully I can benefit them.

"Unfortunately it didn't work. I wish I had not operated on those children."

See also:

02 Dec 99 | Health
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