For immediate release Friday 11 December 2015
The Criminal Appeal Court has this week granted experienced surgeon, David Sellu, leave to appeal his criminal conviction for gross negligence manslaughter following the death, in February 2011, of a patient at the BMI Clementine Churchill Hospital.
Three Lady Justices, led by the Vice President of the Criminal Appeal Court Division, Lady Justice Hallet, have granted Mr Sellu leave to appeal his November 2013 conviction despite the Appeal coming out of time.
Mr Sellu’s Counsel, Mark Ellison QC was given permission to appeal on the ground of new evidence showing firstly that the patient’s risk of death at the time Mr Sellu first saw him was much higher than the 2.6% put forward by the prosecution and secondly, that the significance of the fact that Hughes had been given dabigatran, a new generation oral anticoagulant, was not fully appreciated at the time. An additional point of appeal is the argument that three of the judge’s directions to the jury were legally flawed.
In February 2010 David Sellu, a highly-respected Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, operated on a patient with a perforated bowel at the private hospital in Harrow, Middlesex (BMI Clementine Churchill). Despite Mr Sellu’s efforts, the patient died two days later. There followed a sequence of extraordinary events that led to Mr Sellu being tried and convicted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter in November 2013.
Professor Peter Taylor FRCS, retired Vascular Surgeon and representative of the Friends of David Sellu Campaign says:
“David Sellu, FRCS, tirelessly served his patients for 40 years. This case was tragic for both patient and surgeon. It is very important that the medical complexity of this case is now seen in the light of the fresh evidence.”
In the wake of Mr Sellu’s conviction, many senior medical colleagues have expressed concerns that, despite the passage of time since this tragic incident, hospitals’ systemic failings are not being properly addressed. Instead there appears to be a rising number of prosecutions against individual healthcare workers over the last year, following Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs) in hospitals, which do not address patient safety issues.
Research suggests the average Briton may go through 7 surgeries during his/her lifetime. Complications are said to arise in 8-13% of cases, half of which are believed to be preventable through systemic improvements. Instead, the criminal prosecution of doctors and nurses encourages a culture of cover-up and obfuscation rather than transparent reviews of the full circumstances that led up to the SUI.
Mr Ian Franklin, Consultant Vascular Surgeon and another representative of the Friends of David Sellu Campaign, says:
“Potentially avoidable deaths in hospital are rarely the result of the actions of one person but invariably due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances. Charging individual doctors with manslaughter does not result in a thorough analysis of what happened nor permit lessons to be learned to protect patients in the future.”
Professor Roger Kirby, Medical Director at The Prostate Centre says:
“If surgeons become paranoid about taking on risky cases under the prospect of personal prosecution should the patient die, more lives, not less, will be put at risk as fewer patients will receive the operations they urgently need.”
In the wake of David Sellu’s conviction almost 2000 concerned members of the public (mostly medical professionals who recognise the complexity of emergency post-operative care in the private sector), signed a petition to have Mr Sellu’s appeal upheld. Their support paved the way to this week’s successful permission hearing.
Responsible doctors are calling for a review of the way private & NHS hospitals investigate and report unexpected deaths and Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs) as it is woefully inconsistent.
Please contact Bell Yard Communications for further information, including interviews with some of the medics supporting Mr Sellu or on some of the issues raised above:
- Mr Ian Franklin, Consultant Vascular Surgeon
- Professor Roger Kirby, Medical Director, The Prostate Centre
- Colin Leys, Author of Patient Safety in Private Hospitals and How Safe Are NHS Patients in Private Hospitals
Bell Yard Communications:
Melanie Riley, firstname.lastname@example.org M:+44 (0) 77755 91244 O: +44 (0)20 7936 2021
 http://chpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/CHPI-PatientSafety-Aug2014.pdf (para 47)
11 December 2015