In an unusual abuse of power case, a British surgeon has pled guilty to charges of assault for burning his initials into two of his patients’ livers. According to AP, Simon Bramhall admitted to the crime Wednesday in a case a prosecutor described as "without legal precedent in criminal law." The two incidents of assault took place on February 9 and August 21 of 2013.
During the liver transplant operations, Bramhall decided to brand his patients using something called an argon beam coagulator. With the device, the surgeon sealed blood vessels using an electric beam in order to mark out his initials "SB" on their livers. According to the Guardian, the marks left by an argon beam are not known to impair an organ’s function.
The 53-year-old resigned from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in 2014, after another doctor discovered the initials during a follow-up surgery on one of Bramhall’s patients. Prosecutor Tony Badenoch called Bramhall’s actions "an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anesthetized." Though the surgeon pled guilty to charges of assault, he denied the more serious charge of assault occasioning bodily harm.
Prior to his resignation, Bramhall was a renowned liver, spleen and pancreas surgeon, who had attracted media attention for his successful transplants. In 2014, after news of his suspension broke, Tracy Scriven, a former patient of Bramhall, told Birmingham Mail that the surgeon should be reinstated. "Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad?" Scriven said. "I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life."
Bramhall is currently out on bail and will face sentencing January 12 at Birmingham Crown Court in central England.