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Leading surgeon faces serious disciplinary charges after amputating limbs 'unnecessarily'

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The General Medical Council (GMC) is currently investigating the fitness to practise of Dr James Johnson, a vascular surgeon who carried out procedures at NHS hospitals in Runcorn and Warrington for the North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust.  
Dr Johnson, a distinguished doctor and former leader of UK doctors, is currently being investigated for a number of allegations including amputating patient’s limbs unnecessarily. 
The GMC disciplinary hearing, which began in Manchester on Monday 20th September 2010, will continue into late November 2010 and will inquire into Dr Johnson’s conduct regarding 14 patients he operated on between June 2006 and January 2008.
Amongst the allegations, Dr Johnson, is accused of failing to warn several patients about the risks and benefits involved in the surgery they were due to have, of performing operations that were not surgically indicated or in their best interests and of failing to involve himself properly in their post-operative care.
The charge sheet presented at the GMC hearing said that during an operation in July 2007 on a 69-year-old female patient, Dr Johnson failed to respect the skills and contributions of his colleagues in the operating theatre. He closed the woman's wounds and concluded the operation knowing a surgical clip was missing, leaving it inside her leg. 
The sheet goes on to read that in November 2007, he also performed a right above-knee amputation on a different patient of which it is alleged that Dr Johnson failed to consider a local amputation of a toe as an alternative to the more extensive amputation that was carried out.
The GMC has also been told how Dr Johnson operated on another patient despite knowing they had not signed a consent form and, during the surgery, shouted at both the patient and the staff assisting him.
For half of the 18 months of Dr Johnson’s alleged misdemeanours he was chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union that represents 140,000 of the country's doctors. It is thought by some that it may be Dr Johnson’s role leading the BMA that has caused the conflicting pressures on him and serious adverse effects on his work. For the time being, the GMC have imposed restrictions on Dr Johnson’s registration and he is only allowed to do varicose vein surgery under supervision.
At Stephensons, we have a dedicated clinical negligence department who are happy to advise anyone who feels they may have suffered injury as a result of surgical accidents
By clinical negligence solicitor, Laura Sheehan