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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Bristol surgeon says 'sorry'
James Wisheart with his wife
James Wisheart with his wife
James Wisheart, the doctor at the centre of the Bristol heart babies scandal, has apologised to the families involved for the "torment" they suffered.

Speaking ahead of the expected publication of the final report of the public inquiry into events at Bristol Royal Infirmary, he admitted that at times, his best "had not been good enough".

He told the Bristol Evening Post: "I fully accept that not everything I did was successful and some mistakes were made.

"I wish to express again my sympathy and regrets to the parents and families of children who died.

Looking back, there are many things I wish I had done differently but I do not believe I was guilty of serious professional misconduct

James Wisheart
"Though I did everything in my power to preserve the life and future of children on whom I operated, in these instances my best was not good enough.

"I am sorry for the torment the families have suffered."

The 62-year-old surgeon was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council (GMC) in 1998, along with hospital chief executive John Roylance.

Another doctor, Janardan Dhasmana, was banned from operating on children for three years.


Dr Wisheart, who was also the medical director of the hospital, said he was personally ruined by events: "Found guilty of serious professional misconduct, erased from the medical register, ejected from the medical profession, my life was at its lowest ebb.

"In the media frenzy that followed I was branded cold, arrogant, unapologetic and a butcher of innocent children."

Bristol Royal Infirmary
Bristol Royal Infirmary
But he said he still believes the decision of the GMC, which looked at 53 operations, was wrong, and he attacked the media for their coverage of the scandal.

"Looking back, there are many things I wish I had done differently but I do not believe I was guilty of serious professional misconduct.

"The GMC verdict was bad enough, but the sensationalist media portrayal of those events went a long way beyond the facts.

"During this time I have learnt who my true friends are."

Dr Wisheart said he should not have been criticised by the GMC for failing to stop one particular operation where results were worse than would have been expected.

He says many of the 15 who died had other serious health problems.

Dr Wisheart also said he should not have been attacked for misleading two sets of parents about the risks of an operation.


The surgeon said there were systems failures at the hospital, including children having to be operated on at the adult hospital rather than the children's and delay in appointing a specialist children's heart surgeon because of a lack of funds.

It is expected that the report into almost 2,000 cases events at the Bristol hospital between 1984 and 1995, will be published by the end of the month.

It is thought to be the largest public inquiry into the the NHS, and will have ramifications across the health service.

Witnesses, including Mr Wisheart, finished giving evidence to the inquiry last year.

He said he expected the report to "combine thorough analysis, courage and honesty."

But he added: "It remains to be seen how either the process of the public inquiry, or its findings will help and assist these parents.

"But I hope and pray they will eventually find comfort and healing."

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