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‘There could be thousands more victims’: Mounting toll of injury inflicted by butcher surgeon Ian Paterson

© Andrew CawleySusan McGougan, who had an unnecessary operation on her  by butcher surgeon Ian Paterson
Susan McGougan, who had an unnecessary operation on her by butcher surgeon Ian Paterson

A Scottish surgeon who was jailed for mutilating hundreds of women may have injured hundreds, possibly thousands, more, according to a lawyer investigating the scale of his crimes.

Clinical negligence expert Linda Millband has investigated the number of injuries inflicted by Ian Paterson in operating theatres for more than seven years.

Paterson, from Glasgow, performed botched or unnecessary operations on more than 1,000 patients over 14 years while operating on private patients in England but Millband claimed that is just the tip of the iceberg.

She said: “This has to be one of the worst cases of my career. It is horrendous. Around 4,500 patients who had some connection to Paterson were notified.

“About 1,500 people have come forward so there are a lot more people out there. There may be another 2,500 people out there who have been potentially damaged by Paterson. We just don’t know.

“People keep coming forward. Every time there is something in the media about him, more people come forward.

“Some of his victims may have had treatment, say, in the Midlands in the ’90s or early 2000s but have been in contact from Devon and Cornwall. We have even had people from Spain calling about it.”

She found Paterson dabbled in many forms of surgery, leaving questions marks over his medical qualifications.

She said: “One of the interesting things about the new cases is that some are for things other than breast surgery.

“We have cases for varicose veins, he was doing hernia surgery and just very random surgeries. We even had cases where he did gall bladder surgery.

“They were all unnecessary. His qualifications are a bit suspect. He was a vascular surgeon to start with then he wandered into breast surgery and then he started doing general surgery as well.”

© Shutterstock
Ian Paterson

While based near Birmingham, Paterson gained a reputation for risking patients’ lives with poorly performed surgery and was reported to senior NHS managers in 2007 but went on to operate until 2011. He was jailed for 20 years in 2017 after being found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding for mutilating nine women and one man.

A coroner is investigating whether Paterson, 64, who was lead breast clinician for NHS Solihull Hospital and worked privately for Spire, has caused potentially hundreds of deaths.

Paterson invented a “cleavage sparing” mastectomy technique that he performed on women. It left breast tissue in place allowing cancer to return.

Millband, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “He carried out double mastectomies on some of these women, totally unnecessarily, so there is a visceral hatred for him. It’s absolutely terrible.

“They all think the sentence is too short. Obviously, it was 15 years to start with, then on appeal, it went up to 20.

“That was five years ago now and after 10 they’re worried that he might be able to come out with parole and that’s a very upsetting thought for all of them.

“I saw him at the trial and he was very arrogant. There seems to have been two sets of cases. There were ones where he realised that women were slightly vulnerable because, obviously, he would have read through their notes before. He realised that they had a vulnerability and he seems to have taken advantage of those women.

“I presume he knew that whatever he said they would do, they would trust him and would have the surgery.

“There is a sort of God complex, too but I think there is also a financial motivation. Whenever he could recommend surgery he did and the only motive for that must be a financial gain.”

His crimes featured in a recent TV show Bodies Of Evidence: The Butcher Surgeon which revealed that he lived in a £1.5 million house in Birmingham’s posh Edgbaston suburb, drove expensive cars and ate in Michelin-starred restaurants.

His colleague, Hemant Ingle, raised the alarm with hospital chiefs. He said: “On a Friday afternoon he would be having between 20 to 22 patients in a private clinic, which is unheard of.

“Even in the NHS we don’t get that many cancers that we’d operate on in one week in one clinic. And I wondered if all these cases were actually cancer.”

Two years ago, the Solihull and Birmingham coroner launched an investigation into whether any “unnatural deaths” occurred under Paterson’s care.

I’d like to ask him why he was happy to butcher me?

Susan McGougan at home (Pic: Andrew Cawley)

The first Scots victim of butcher surgeon Ian Paterson has told how she was mutilated in an unnecessary op.

Susan McGougan, 64, who lives in Garlieston, Dumfries and Galloway, said: “I want to see him face-to-face. I want to ask him, ‘Why? Why me? Why the other women?’ I want to ask him why he was happy to risk my life just so that he could get a fancy suit or an expensive car. What made him do it? Its unbelievable to think that he would put me and so many others through this.”

Paterson operated on McGougan in 2004 in Solihull in the Midlands. It would be years before she found out that her surgery had not been needed at all.

She said: “It happened while we were living in Birmingham as my husband worked there. At the time, it was terrifying. I had two young girls and I thought I had a lump in my left breast. I’d had one before but it was benign. So I went along and saw Paterson and he said, ‘That looks suspicious

“He said it needed to come out. I had to put on a brave face for the kids. After the operation, they said everything was fine.

“Years later, I was told he had never held a meeting with the anaesthetists or nursing staff. It all went under the radar – he claimed cash for a bigger operation than it actually was.

“Even the consent form I signed was illegal. The lawyer has a five-page report saying everything he did was totally wrong and there was no lump.

“There is a picture of the mammogram he took in there and it was just some fatty tissue and it did not require an operation.

“When I look at the deformity I have to live with, it brings it all back. He has butchered me. Since then, it has been a case of buying a bra that fits one breast and stuffing the other side with tissue and wearing baggy tops.”

Paterson’s crimes rank among a number of women’s health scandals to raise questions about entrenched sexism in healthcare. Other scandals affecting women include maternity care failures and the widespread use of flawed pelvic mesh implants.

UK ministers have promised to address “decades of gender health inequality” under a forthcoming Women’s Health Strategy.

McGougan said: “I could have died on that operating table. I am not alone. I know there are thousands that have been affected. We moved to Scotland nine years ago and I was here when I got the call about Paterson. Anyone who has been affected should come forward.”