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The Bristol heart babies Thursday, 18 March, 1999, 16:52 GMT
Grieving father suspected cover-up
16.24 18-03-99 bri ac
Verity Curnow died four days after surgery at the hospital
A grieving father has told how he suspected doctors were attempting to cover up the circumstances of his daughter's death.

The Bristol Heart Babies
Malcolm Curnow had earlier told the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry he had only consented to his daughter having a heart operation because he believed there was little risk attached to the procedure.

Verity Curnow died four dies after Mr Janardhan Dhasmana carried out the "shunt" operation.

Mr Curnow said he felt his attempts were being hampered when he tried to access his daughter's medical records.

Surgeon expressed disappointment

The inquiry was shown a letter Mr Dhasmana sent to the Curnows the day after Verity died.

Mr Dhasmana wrote: "I feel very sad and disappointed in having failed to improve Verity's oxygenation."

16.24 18-03-99 curnow ac
Malcolm Curnow feels his questions were dismissed
Mr Curnow, a leading campaigner with the Bristol Heart Children Action Group, said this reinforced his suspicion that something had gone wrong during surgery.

He had earlier said that when he saw his daughter after the operation she looked ready to die.

Mr Dhasmana had told him he had encountered an unexpectedly complex problem with Verity's heart when he opened her up.

But a later letter from Dr Steve Jordan, the cardiologist who referred Verity to the Bristol unit, contradicted this.

He said Verity's heart had been "as predicted".

Mr Curnow said: "It seemed to reinforce that this was a cover-up."

Devastated by lack of communication

He also read a letter that implied the only course of action for Verity would have been a heart-lung transplant.

He said he was "absolutely devastated" that so much about her condition could be in her medical notes and withheld from her parents.

16.29 18-03-99 dhasmana ac
Television footage of Mr Janardhan Dhasmana alerted Mr Curnow to the GMC inquiry
However, he did not pursue the issue as Mrs Curnow said she wanted to put the whole episode in the past, he said.

Seven years later, in April-May 1997, he tried to obtain Verity's medical records, he said, but got the impression his efforts were being blocked.

He told the inquiry that in one telephone conversation with a Dr Haim Joffe, the doctor alluded to an "internal inquiry".

He assured Mr Curnow that Mr Dhasmana was not involved.

Mr Curnow said this was the first he had heard of any inquiry, but his questions as to its nature were not fully answered.

Again he let the matter drop for the sake of his family, he told the hearing.

Television informed parents

But in October 1997 he saw a television news item about the General Medical Council investigation, which included footage of Mr Dhasmana walking down the street.

It was at this point he became aware of his daughter's involvement in the disciplinary hearings against the Bristol surgeon.

" I knew I had been lied to, and I knew I had been deceived. It is my anger at being deceived that has driven me since," Mr Curnow told the inquiry.

"Our daughter has been buried and our lives have been ruined and we have to live with that for the rest of our lives."

See also:

22 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
17 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
19 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
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