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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
Liposuction doctor struck off
Dr Thomas Norton has 28 days to appeal
A doctor who left liposuction patients disfigured and in agony has been struck off the medical register.

The case has led to demands for tougher regulation of private clinics which offer cosmetic surgery.

GP Dr Thomas Norton, who performed "liposculpture" operations on at least a hundred patients in Sheffield and Wakefield, had never gained any qualification in surgery.

syringe hand
There are calls for tougher controls
On Thursday he was found guilty on 42 charges, ranging from not providing adequate sedation for his patients to not counselling them enough before their operations.

The General Medical Council (GMC) decided he was guilty of serious professional misconduct and immediately banned him from working.

Professor John Anderson, chairman of the GMC's professional conduct committee, told Dr Norton: "The serious findings against you, your wholly inadequate standards of practice and the committee's duty to protect members of the public, are satisfied that the public interest demand that your name be erased from the register."

However, questions are being raised as to how patients can be protected in future.

'It's just a mess'

The case centred on three patients, including Eda Watson, who awoke in pain during her operation.

She heard Dr Norton telling other staff to "get her back under".

Mrs Watson said that she had been left looking like Michelin man with "all the lumps and bumps" he has around the middle.

My hips should have been smooth after the liposuction, but I had a ripple effect, and I had a large protruding bulge over my tummy button

Eda Watson, former patient
Unlike liposuction, liposculpture involves removing excess fat, and then using it to augment other areas such as the breasts.

However, speaking to the BBC, Mrs Watson, from Sheffield said: "My hips should have been smooth after the liposuction, but I had a ripple effect, and I had a large protruding bulge over my tummy button."

"It was just a mess."

Dr Clive Orton, from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said that a clampdown on rogue cosmetic surgeons was needed.

"Above all we need control of who is permitted to carry out cosmetic surgery."

Ann Parker, chairwoman of the National Care Standards Commission, said that the body would be able to check clinics and ensure staff were properly qualified.

"We'll be inspecting each of these services and checking they have proper procedures."

Two months in hospital

Other charges against Dr Norton, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, found proven by the GMC included not dressing wounds adequately after operations, leaving patients disfigured, and - on one occasion - not speaking to a patient prior to an operation.

Dr Clive Orton
Dr Clive Orton: "We need controls"

One woman had to spend two months in hospital after her wound became infected.

Dr Norton said: "In hindsight I think it's fair to say that the treatment given fell short of what could be required."

Despite having no formal surgery training, or past registration, Dr Norton was legally entitled to carry out the procedure using just a local anaesthetic.

Lessons learned

Dr Norton, who now works at a hair clinic in Wakefield, has vowed never to carry out another liposuction operation and has "learned his lesson", said defence counsel Andrew Hockton in mitigation.

Earlier, Mr Timothy Milward, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Leicester Infirmary, told the hearing that liposuction was often mistakenly treated as a "simple, trouble-free 'have it in your lunchtime' procedure."
Eda Watson
Eda Watson said her appearance was ruined
He also criticised the level of counselling, saying they should be called salesmen not counsellors.

"It was not counselling, it was point of sales talk.

"It is scandalous to view that as counselling, he said.

Clinic's response

The Transform Medical Group, which owns the clinics in which Dr Norton worked, stressed that the events occurred up to eight years ago.

In a statement it said: "Transform is committed to developing improved standards and facilities with best clinical practice in mind and in the best interests of its patients."

The Department of Health said that new regulations to govern the independent healthcare sector were being put in place.

These would include requirements for cosmetic surgeons, including ensuring that all patients are given a pre-admission appointment with the surgeon who will conduct the operation and counselling for the patient both before and after surgery.

A spokesman for Dr Norton, said the decision had come as a "devastating blow" to him and he needed time to reflect upon it.

He has 28 days to appeal.

The BBC's Karen Allen and Daniel Sandford
report on the verdict
Dr Clive Orton, Senior plastic surgeon
"There needs to be a great deal of regulation with these clinics"
Anne Parker, National Care Standards Commission
says there is a possibility of cases like this happening again
See also:

01 May 00 | Health
Plastic surgery boom
16 Nov 00 | Background Briefings
The GMC: Guiding doctors
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