May 24, 2024

“God complex” UK surgeon injured hundreds of women

Ian Paterson exaggerated or invented cancer risks to get women’s consent

Ian Paterson 

A British surgeon with a “God complex” carried out unnecessary breast cancer surgery on hundreds of women, leaving them disfigured or at risk of cancer. Ian Paterson, of Manchester, was convicted in late April of intentionally wounding patients and is awaiting sentence. Although he was on trial for a handful of cases, he appears to have done hundreds of unnecessary operations between 1997 and 2011 at two privately-run hospitals in the West Midlands.

Paterson exaggerated or invented cancer risks and sometimes claimed payments for more expensive procedures. The prosecution said that he carried out “extensive, life-changing operations for no medically-justifiable reason”.

The National Health Service has dealt with 250 claims but it is feared that the total number of his victims at private and NHS hospitals may exceed 1,000. One of the rogue operations was “a cleavage-sparing mastectomy”, which removed only part of a breast. This meant that cancerous tissue may have been left behind, leaving women at risk. He was asked to stop this procedure, but continued with for several years.

Paterson’s motives are obscure, although he probably needed to fund his expensive lifestyle. A police spokeswoman told the BBC: “Some of his victims said he wanted to play God with their lives or he got some perverse satisfaction from these procedures. We will probably never know.”

One patient, on whom Paterson operated nine times, said bitterly: “I think he’s a psychopath. Why would anyone in their right mind do operations to people knowing that they didn’t need them?”

Paterson projected two personalities. To his patients, he was charming and reassuring. One woman said: “You felt that he was genuine and caring, and he just wasn’t like a normal consultant. He was very down to earth. He’d be very caring and would put you at ease. There wasn’t any reason to distrust what he was telling us.”

But with colleagues, he could be a bully. One former colleague said he had “a very aggressive, bullying sort of personality, which allowed him to get his way. People would generally go around him, they were afraid of him.” 

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