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The second surgeon: Janardan Dhasmana
Janardan Dhasmana
Dhasmana: Sacked by the hospital trust
Among the three doctors who faced the General Medical Council over the Bristol babies affair, surgeon Janardan Dhasmana has lost the most.

And this is despite a punishment which fell far short of those meted out to his colleagues James Wisheart and John Roylance.

In fact, he was banned from operating from children for three years, and was not struck off.

There were no question marks raised over his skills in adult surgery - a significant proportion of his work.

However, the publicity surrounding the case, coupled with his subsequent sacking by the trust which runs the Bristol Royal Infirmary means that he is virtually unemployable in this country - and indeed might struggle to get a medical job anywhere in the world.

Unlike Mr Wisheart, who retired with a substantial pension, Dhasmana has lost his salary and pension.

Newsnight outburst

The sacking followed hot on the heels of a controversial interview with then Health Secretary Frank Dobson on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

Mr Dobson said that he felt Dhasmana should have been struck off alongside Wisheart and Roylance.

He is understood to be devastated by events - those who witnessed him breaking down in the witness box at the inquiry will have a flavour of this.

If I knew the patient was not going to make it, I would have been the first to stop

Janardan Dhasmana to the Bristol Inquiry
"They have ruined me professionally and personally," he told the panel. "My family life has gone and I have lost confidence in myself."

This is unlikely to elicit much sympathy from the families who believe that his lack of surgical skill contributed to the deaths of their children.

In fact, Janardan Dhasmana received the most vitriolic response from the crowd of parents waiting outside the General Medical Council (GMC) building in London following the verdict.

One relative told him he should "rot in hell" for his role in the affair.

Dhasmana came to Bristol in 1986 as a consultant in cardiothoracic surgery, and number two to Wisheart.

Switch crisis

He had qualified as a doctor in India, before gaining further experience in a number of UK hospitals.

The type of operation which was crucial to the case against the surgeon was the "switch" - in which a child is born with the main arteries from the heart transposed - attached the wrong way round.

The operation to correct this was increasingly carried out in the mid-to-late 1980s, and Dhasmana first attempted it in 1988.

It was really a series of less than 20 operations on which he was judged by the GMC, who decided his results were so poor that he should not have operated on his final "switch" patient, toddler Joshua Loveday, who died during the operation.

But Dhasmana always insisted he had always made decisions with the best interests of his patients in his mind.

Emotional and outspoken

He told the inquiry: "If I knew the patient was not going to make it, I would have been the first to stop. But I was really thinking I would use my abilities to help the patient."

Dhasmana has always denied wrongdoing
Former colleagues say that the characters of Dhasmana and Wisheart were diametrically opposed.

While Wisheart was customarily softly spoken and reserved, Dhasmana was, they say, always more emotional and prone to speaking his mind.

Maria Shortis, who co-founded the Bristol Heart Babies Action Group, felt that her own meetings with Dhasmana, who operated on her daughter Jacinta, were marked by his poor communication skills, particularly when he was pressed for answers.

She said "He was very cross - he was really brusque, and wasn't used to this kind of consultation.

"I couldn't believe the experience - it was like some kind of Alice in Wonderland experience."

Despite all this, he is perhaps the surgeon with whom these campaigning parents have most sympathy.

He is still angry at his treatment by the trust, and in 2000 launched an unsuccessful unfair dismissal claim against them.

Earlier this year, the GMC decided not only to continue his original three year ban, but even to slightly extend its terms.

This not only leaves him struggling financially, but, as he nears retirement age, facing the prospect of never working in medicine again.

Full coverage of the Bristol heart babies inquiry report

Government response

Key stories

Key figures

Parents' stories

Background briefing


Bristol year by year
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