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Baby surgeon: I was scapegoat
Surgeon James Wisheart says he has been scapegoated
James Wisheart, the senior surgeon at the centre of the Bristol heart babies scandal, has fiercely defended his reputation at the public inquiry.

The Bristol Heart Babies
After expressing sympathy to the parents of children who died during or after operations he carried out, he lashed out at the 'difficult circumstances' which led to the tragedy.

Mr Wisheart, 60, was speaking after giving evidence for the third day in a row at the inquiry.


A culture where the finding of scapegoats appears to be put before the finding of solutions

James Wisheart
He said: "In a sense the problems experienced at Bristol are like a microcosm of the National Health Service.

"Doctors, surgeons battling against difficult circumstances, with inadequate resources and in a culture where the finding of scapegoats appears to be put before the finding of solutions."

He added: "Lessons have, and are still to be learnt and it is my sincere hope that over time the inquiry, through its findings, will put what happened at Bristol into proper perspective and will enable the NHS to move forward to a new era."

Earlier Mr Wisheart's lawyer Angus Moon told the inquiry if there were serious failings at the Bristol Royal Infirmary it was due to systematic factors rather than errors by "this hard working, dedicated and sincere surgeon."

Mr Wisheart said: "I believe that I was a competent and caring surgeon who achieved acceptable results over many years of service to the NHS but more particularly to the patients I served."

The inquiry is looking into high death rates for paediatric cardiac surgery at Bristol in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Report on 'organ stripping'

The chairman of the inquiry today announced his panel will be producing a special report on the issue of the retention of organs at the request of the Government's Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Ian Kennedy said legal opinion was divided on the issue of the retention of tissue after post-mortem examinations.

There has been outrage following revelations about practices in hospitals across the country, particularly in Bristol and Liverpool.

Prof Kennedy said the lack of clarity in the law had led to a "pressing need for clarification of what is proper, from both an ethical and legal perspective."

He said the report would be ready in the spring.

See also:

13 Dec 99 | Health
02 Dec 99 | Health
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