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BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"The hospital must await the findings of its medical advisory committee"
 real 56k

Monday, 21 August, 2000, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Surgeon lodges new limb amputation bid
amputations graphic
Operations were carried out at Falkirk Royal Infirmary
A surgeon who amputated healthy limbs from two patients has applied for permission to continue carrying out the procedures.

But a private hospital in Stirling says it will not be rushed into a decision on Robert Smith's controversial move.

Mr Smith carried out two operations on patients with a psychiatric disorder at Falkirk Royal Infirmary before he was banned from further procedures at the hospital.

He is now seeking permission to carry out a further operation at the private King's Park Hospital in Stirling on a patient who wants a healthy leg removed.

Eric Hemmings, managing director of the group which runs the hospital, confirmed that its medical advisory committee would discuss the issue later in the year - but said it would not be rushed into making a decision.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith has lodged a new application
It emerged in January that Mr Smith had carried out two operations on private patients at the Falkirk hospital.

Forth Valley Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said no action would be taken against him.

But its chairman said it was inappropriate to carry out that type of surgery in an NHS hospital.

Both patients operated on were suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which convinces people that some part of their body is defective.

In the first case, an English patient said to be close to suicide had the lower part of a limb removed in September 1997.

Mr Smith took advice from his professional organisation, consulted the hospital's then medical director and received written permission from the chief executive.

The second case involved a man from Germany who had heard that the hospital was willing to carry out the procedure. This went ahead in April 1999.

'Pause for thought'

The operations are understood to have been carried out in National Health Service theatres and involved NHS staff, but the men were private patients.

At the time Mr Smith said the issue had given him "considerable pause for thought" and that he only agreed to carry out the first operation after 18 months of investigation.

"I became increasingly convinced that the patients had had very little success from their treatments by psychiatrists and psychologists over the years," he said.

"The one concern is that many of these individuals will in fact injure themselves.

"There are quite a lot of anecdotal reports, largely from the States, of people taking the law into their own hands, lying on a railway line or shooting their legs off with a shotgun."

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See also:

31 Jan 00 | Scotland
Surgeon defends amputations
31 Jan 00 | Medical notes
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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