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Surgeon: Baby deaths 'part of learning'
Mr Dhasmana: `mortality would be higher'
A surgeon disciplined for his part in the Bristol heart babies affair has said high death rates are part and parcel of learning a new operation.

Mr Janardan Dhasmana, who was banned from operating on babies by the General Medical Council (GMC), told the public inquiry into paediatric heart surgery at Bristol that it took time for surgeons to become accomplished at a new procedure.


I wish nobody had to operate on someone for the first time

Janardan Dhasmana
Mr Dhasmana was giving the inquiry his version of events for the first time.

He said: "Whenever you start any new operation you are bound to have, unfortunately, high mortality."

The surgeon, who was sacked by the United Bristol Healthcare Trust following the GMC hearing, was describing his skills at the "arterial switch" operation, in which two blood vessels from babies born with severe birth defects are transposed to allow the heart to function properly.

Bristol's results for the "switch" during the early 1990s were worse than other specialist centres in Birmingham, Southampton and London.

'Child may survive elsewhere'

Mr Dhasmana told the hearing: "In any complex case, anywhere, there is always a possibility that a child could survive elsewhere.

"Unfortunately, at that time, there were no clear guidelines, every surgeon was doing the best available practice."

The Bristol Royal Infirmary had higher death rates
He said that after assisting a more senior surgeon in performing a switch operation, he waited five years before performing the operation himself.

"I did anticipate that when starting a new operation, mortality would be higher than what I could achieve a few years later.

"I wish nobody had to operate on someone for the first time."

Mr Dhasmana will give evidence on four consecutive days at the public inquiry.

It is investigating the treatment and care of babies undergoing complex heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary from 1984 to 1995.

The inquiry follows another investigation from the GMC into 53 operations in which 29 patients died and four were left brain-injured.

The GMC struck off surgeon and medical director James Wisheart, and hospital manager Dr John Roylance.

See also:

15 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
04 Nov 99 | The Bristol heart babies
23 Nov 99 | Health
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