Father-of-Five Died After Fatal Injury To Major Vein On The Operating Table

Specialist Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell Secure Settlement For Family


The devastated widow of a man who died following misconceived elective spinal surgery which led to him losing a huge volume of blood peri-operatively and led to a subsequent leg amputation says she hopes lessons have been learnt to reduce the risk of similar problems affecting others in future.

Dean Bircham, from Roydon, in Essex, had a long history of back pain and sciatica and had previous surgery in the 1990’s. Although he was managing to combine a successful IT career with an active family life  his back pain was having a huge impact on his life.

In 2010, the 51-year-old was referred to Mr Hussein who advised a risky operation to his spine adopting an anterior approach, the benefits of which were uncertain. Dean agreed to undergo  the operation on 23rd September 2010 at Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth but did so on the basis of inadequate explanation of the risks.

During Dean’s surgery a vein was damaged and he suffered significant blood loss as the surgeon tried to stem the bleeding. The massive blood loss led to Dean developing peripheral ischaemia (restriction of blood supply to tissue) and he underwent two amputation procedures.

Expert medical evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell put emphasis on the decision to carry on the procedure when the vein was found to be adherent to the spine and on Mr Hussein’s  failure to seek help promptly from a vascular surgeon.

Dean, who was born in Canada, sadly deteriorated as he continued to lose blood and developed hypoglycaemia (low glucose levels) and bradycardia (slow heart rate) and he died on 30th September 2010 after it was agreed by the family that treatment should be withdrawn.

His wife Julie instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his care and expert evidence obtained by the law firm advised that the risks inherent in the surgery recommended to Dean outweighed its potential benefits and he was ill-advised by Mr Hussein to agree to it. Mr Hussein did not seek to defend the claim and now following an approval hearing today (15th October) at the Royal Courts of Justice, an undisclosed settlement for the family.

Julie issued a complaint to the General Medical Council (GMC) regarding Mr Hussein as she was extremely concerned about the standard of his surgical technique and skill.

Dean and Julie have five  children - one of their daughters, Lauren, has cerebral palsy caused by an unprovoked respiratory failure when a baby and requires round-the-clock care. The settlement will now help the family to cope with her care needs following Dean’s sudden and shocking death.

Expert Opinion
“Dean had been suffering with significant back pain for years and it was recommended that he underwent a surgical procedure. An anterior approach was recommended as this was the only surgical approach open to Dean because of his previous operations. However it carried a heightened risk of injury to major vessels.

“This procedure was unnecessary as Dean could have been treated with other physical therapies to manage his pain. The risks of serious injury or even death posed by the procedure were inadequately explained to Dean or Julie as was the uncertain nature of any benefit.

“Since Dean’s death, Julie and their five children have found it extremely difficult to come to terms with losing him so suddenly and in such tragic circumstances. Dean was a fit and healthy man despite his back condition, and he would always ensure that his family’s needs were put first, especially those of his youngest daughter Lauren.

“We are pleased that we have secured this settlement for Julie and the family; although nothing can turn back the clock and bring Dean back, they will now have a substantial measure of financial security in the future.”
Alison Eddy, Partner

Julie, 55, said: “Losing Dean so suddenly has been absolutely devastating for our family. We hoped the surgery would relieve the pain which he had been dealing with so stoically for many years.

“Dean was an amazing father and did everything he could to ensure that our children were happy and enjoyed life. They are all still struggling to come to terms with his death. He was a very active dad who made everything so much fun for the children.

“Lauren who is now 16 years old had a close bond with her dad and the impact on her since Dean’s death has been significant. Before Dean died Lauren was included in everything we did as a family, we used to work as a team to support Lauren and if she was in pain or upset, we were both able to help her. She is now rarely able to come out with us as a family as it is too difficult for me to manage her physical needs without Dean’s help.

“I am grateful for the help that my legal team at Irwin Mitchell have provided for me and my family and now we are able to access vital funding to help with Lauren’s care to enable her to have the specialist support she requires.”