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Mum Died After Surgeons Damaged Large Vein and Two Arteries During Operation

Expert Medical Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell Call For Restrictions to Gallbladder Surgery After Woman Dies Following ‘Routine’ Procedure 


Lawyers acting for the devastated husband of a mum-of-two who died when doctors damaged a major vein and two arteries during a routine gallbladder operation are calling for only specialist surgeons to carry out the procedure after an Inquest heard she died from fatal injuries to the blood supply to her liver.

Devoted John Franks, 68, from Bruntwood, Staffordshire, told how he is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife Patricia after 48 years of marriage, after a locum surgeon damaged her portal vein, which connects the blood supply to the liver, during a routine procedure to remove her gallbladder at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham.

The Inquest heard the surgeons also caused damage to two further arteries supplying the liver during the course of the operation, which was not discovered until emergency surgery was undertaken late the following day after she was transferred to specialists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. 

But by then, she had suffered severe liver failure and died on 9th February 2011, two days after she was first admitted to hospital. 

The Deputy Coroner for Birmingham, Sarah Ormond-Walshe, recorded a narrative verdict that Patricia Franks died suffering liver necrosis (liver failure) following liver resection surgery. She found that there had been a failure to transfer her to high dependency or intensive care following complications during the original surgery.”

Now, expert medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who represent the family said the Inquest had gone some way to provide answers but are seeking assurances that this could not happen again.

Lindsay Gibb, a clinical negligence expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “It is deeply concerning that what should have been a routine procedure resulted in the death of an otherwise healthy woman due to potential errors by staff at the hospital where she was treated.

“Patient safety has to be a number one priority by the NHS at all times, but it appears this wasn’t the case with Mrs Frank’s care and her family will have to live with that for the rest of their lives

“We have obtained independent expert evidence which suggests that with an appropriate standard of care this injury would not have occurred and we hope lessons are learnt by the Trust from the mistakes identified.

“Sadly I have acted for a number of patients who have suffered complications during surgery to remove the gallbladder, some of which proved fatal, and all with devastating consequences. On the whole these instances are due to general surgeons undertaking specialist surgery when they are unable to deal with any complications that can arise. 

“This case clearly highlights the need for only specialist surgeons to be undertaking such surgery to prevent further tragedy in the future.”

The Inquest heard how the operation was complex but the surgeon continued with the full removal of the gallbladder and it was suggested he should have sought senior assistance or stopped when the operation became difficult which could have prevented her death.

The Inquest also heard from Mr Mirza, a Specialist Surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Liver Unit, who said the surgeons at Good Hope Hospital could have called for his department’s assistance in surgery at any time when the complications occurred, which could have given Mrs Franks a better chance of survival.  Mr Mirza also gave evidence that Mrs Franks gallbladder was in a slightly different position to normal, which probably contributed to the injury as it caused the surgeon to become disorientated and to mis-identify the structure.

Following surgery Mrs Franks condition deteriorated considerably, but it was 24 hours before she was returned to theatre, where it was discovered the left part of the liver was dead due to a lack of blood supply.  This was removed but sadly her condition had deteriorated to the extent she could not be saved.

Her devastated husband and daughter Lynne Holmes, 45, rushed to say their goodbyes, holding her hand as she passed away.

John Franks, a retired tool worker, said: “The last 13 months have been utter turmoil for me and my daughters as we’ve struggled to come to terms with the loss of Patricia. Our eldest daughter Lesley, never even got chance to say goodbye as she lives in New Zealand and we’d been assured it was a routine procedure so she didn’t need to come back.

“What has made it more difficult is knowing that she would still be with us today if the surgeon performing the operation had realised the difficulty and either stopped or called for senior assistance. I have found the Inquest very harrowing.  Patricia would still be with me today enjoying our retirement and grandchildren if it was not for the surgeon continuing without senior assistance.

“It was such a shock to receive the call from the hospital saying we needed to rush to say our goodbyes, after she had just gone in for what we were told was a straightforward keyhole procedure. I will never forget how poorly she looked in the hours that followed the surgery and, when we were told there was no more the doctors could do, I was beside myself with grief.

“Patricia and I had been married for 48 years and had planned a trip to New Zealand to visit our daughter Lesley this year for her wedding. I’m now left a widower with our dreams in tatters and I’m looking for assurances from the hospital that they’ve made improvements in their training and supervision of staff so no one else has to go through the loss and pain I’ve suffered and continue to suffer today.”

Commenting on this case, Professor Graeme Poston, President of the Association of Upper GI Surgeons of Gt. Britain and Ireland (AUGIS), said “Twenty years after the introduction of keyhole surgery to remove the gallbladder we continue to see disasters such as this being referred to our specialist centres.  Removal of the gallbladder, although performed frequently remains a challenging and difficult operation.

“One in 300 such operations continue to end in a catastrophe. My advice to anyone considering gallbladder surgery is simply to ask their surgeon if they are a specialist upper gastrointestinal surgery and how many such operations they do a year.  If they are not a specialist then my advice is you ask why they are doing your operation.”

If you or a loved one has suffered due to a surgical error or negligence, our medical negligence solicitors could help you claim compensation. Visit our Surgery Claims page for more information.