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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Hindu sues after cow used in op
Cattle
Cattle are sacred in the Hindu religion
A Hindu woman has won 4,000 in damages after surgeons used "sacred" cow cartilage in her operation.

The educational administrator said she would have never consented to the operation if she had known doctors were going to use parts of the cow, which is sacred to her religion.

And she has fought a six year battle to get the out-of-court settlement.

The 34-year-old woman, who has not been named, said her doctors at Sunderland City Hospitals NHS Trust never told her about the use of the cattle in the operation.


I trusted this man implicitly, but he just used me for an experiment. I was horrified

The 34-year-old woman

Sacred cow

"I am not religious but as a Hindu the cow is sacred, and you are not supposed to do anything that will be seen to be sacrilegious to the animal.

"Inserting a part of a cow in your body would certainly be seen as that. It would be completely frowned upon."

She said that she had always been self conscious about a small lump on the bridge of her nose and the fact that it bent slightly.

She was referred to surgeon Mr Leo Strassen at Sunderland General Hospital, who agreed to carry out her rhinoplasty on the NHS.

After the operation the woman said she had been shocked to find that cartilage had been removed from her ear and implanted in her nose and that student doctors had been allowed to watch the whole procedure.

But it was only later when she inspected her medical records that she found the cow cartilage had been used.

She said: "I felt like some sort of experiment in a Nazi concentration camp.

"I went to the doctors because I had a problem with my nose.

"The rhinoplasty was to reduce the lump and straighten my nose.

"There was never any mention of implants from my own body and certainly no mention of bovine implants.

"I trusted this man implicitly, but he just used me for an experiment. I was horrified."

Settlement

She said that following the operation she was in severe pain and had trouble breathing and that it was when she took legal advice about this that she got access to her records and found out about the cow cartilage.

She now plans to have the cartilage removed and faces an 11,000 bill.

"I have suffered almost seven years of pain, stress and depression because of this and that won't end until the cartilage has been taken out.

"This operation may cost me up to 11,000, and I've been told that another operation may cause my nose to collapse - but it is a chance I must take."

The City Hospitals Sunderland said that the payment had been made with no admission of liability, but it expressed sympathy for any discomfort faced by the woman, who now lives in London.

A health authority spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that we have been able to reach a settlement with the lady.

"It has taken a number of years and that is regrettable. This seems to be a fairly unique case and the surgeon's professional ability was not in question.

"It involved the use of bovine cartilage which caused great distress to the lady and her family."

See also:

05 Jan 01 | Health
Law call on teen breast ops
14 Mar 01 | Health
'Why I'm keeping my face'
08 May 01 | Health
Breast reduction 'helps women'
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