Ian Patterson – playing God?

As an aspiring medic, it has been impossible to ignore the news this week. In fact, I was trying to drag my way through an uninspiring gym session having forgotten my headphones when this news story caught my eye. Ian Patterson was a name I hadn’t heard of before last week, yet he is now a person I just cannot seem to fathom.

Ian Patterson is a breast cancer surgeon, meeting people, often young women, when they are scared and vulnerable. He has carried out unnecessary operations on 10 known patients [1] however the exact number of his victims could be in the thousands, leaving them feeling both mutilated and violated. The crown court stated that he carried out ‘extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason” [1].

As despicable as this is, the real question I cannot be alone in asking is how did this go on for so long? The first of these ten patients was operated on in 1997 [1] and concerns have been raised since. Ian Patterson worked in the private healthcare system, and if any positives can come from this hugely negative situation it is that issues which need to be address have become evident. Restrictions and regulations must now come as a result of this medical crisis, helping to protect those across the healthcare system – including the private sector.

A doctor has a huge amount of responsibility, and a worried or anxious patient can easily believe everything that comes out of a healthcare professional’s mouth. I hope that this incident does not prevent patients trusting their doctors and nurses, but that it does stimulate the necessary questions to be asked. I hope the NHS and other organisations act quickly to help improve protocol, as a situation like this can never happen again.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/28/ian-paterson-the-likable-breast-surgeon-who-wounded-his-patients

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/28/ian-paterson-charmed-patients-scrimping-treatments-funding-luxury/

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