Child operated on without consent at Derriford Hospital

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A consultant surgeon from Derriford Hospital carried out a procedure on a boy while he was under a general anaesthetic for an unrelated operation – without consent and against his wishes.

Surgeon Commander Anthony Lambert has since been banned from carrying out planned operations on children by Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust. He has apologised to the boy, who was 12 at the time.

The child, who wants to remain anonymous, was at the hospital for a hernia operation. When he went to meet the surgeon for an initial consultation he was asked for additional consent for a genital examination to be carried out.

The examination was unrelated to the umbilical hernia for which he was receiving treatment, and the boy and his parents refused.

Despite this refusal, while the boy was unconscious on the operating table, Mr Lambert pressed on and carried out the examination.

Having identified a problem, apparently Mr Lambert informed the operating team in theatre that he would carry out a further procedure.  One of the other staff members told him he did not have consent and would need to speak to the parents.

At that point, the surgeon left the operating theatre and walked into the waiting room where the parents were both waiting. They saw Mr Lambert, but he apparently did not see them, and turned around and left without speaking to them or calling their name.

He then went ahead and carried out the procedure.

In his apology to the family Mr Lambert wrote: “I accept that I should not have proceeded to undertake the additional procedure … without consent, and that the correct course of action would have been to inform you and [the boy] of the diagnosis, so that further care and treatment could have been arranged with consent.

“Why I did not call your name when I left theatre to find you, I do not know; I should have made more of an effort to locate you and seek your consent.”

The surgeon also had to apologise for his language. When the patient came round from the anaesthetic and found what had happened he was angry.

He wrote: “I also accept that my language and style, which has always been colloquial, perhaps as a result of my military background, was entirely inappropriate on this occasion.

“I unreservedly apologise for the short-fallings in the care I provided to your son.”

The boy’s mum said: “We were all incredibly shocked by what happened. We did what we believed was the right thing and encouraged him to trust the doctor..

“I don’t think of Mr Lambert as a bad person, I just think of him as someone who believes he always knows best – it’s almost like he needs help. In our experience he’s not trustworthy, and that’s not the sort of person you want as a surgeon.”

Andrew Hannam, Partner at Enable Law, and who is acting on behalf of the family, said:

“Consent is a patient-centred process that should be followed before every procedure. In this case, not only had the child not been asked for consent, but he had refused to allow the surgeon to examine him. His parents had supported this decision. For Mr Lambert to continue in these circumstances was shocking for the child and his family.”