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Surgeon who set patient on fire during breast surgery blamed allergic reaction for injury

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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A Harley Street surgeon who accidentally set a patient on fire during a breast enhancement operation and then tried to cover it up today faced a General Medical Council hearing in Manchester.
 
The accident occurred in September 2008 at the London Wellbeck Hospital after the Harley Medical Group employed Dr Brunner to carry out the £4,275 procedure. It was Dr Brunner’s first day as a visiting cosmetic surgeon.
 
Dr Brunner is a member of the prestigious International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and has been working in private practice as a plastic surgeon in Germany since 1998.
 
The tribunal was told how Dr Christina Brunner had started the blaze on the operating table when a piece of electrical equipment accidentally touched a swab, which then spread to the surgical drapes covering the patient. Although the fire was put out straight away, the 24 year old patient was left with a blister the size of a 50 pence coin on her right breast.
 
Dr Brunner instructed nurses to keep quiet and say the injury was caused by an allergic reaction and told them to ‘extensively dress’ the patient’s chest so the burn could not be seen by visitors. Nurses were also told not to fill in any forms about the accident in contravention of hospital policy.
 
On subsequently visiting the patient in the recovery ward three times, Dr Brunner failed, on each occasion,  to tell her about the accident.
 
At the hearing today, the GMC accused Brunner of dishonesty and misleading health bosses. They said she had failed to record any information in the patient's notes or other record concerning the injuries sustained by her. They also criticised her for failing to inform other clinicians about the patient’s injuries or the care plan she required.
 
Dr Brunner informed investigators that the fire was started by anaesthetic gases and insists she told hospital bosses about what had happened. However, she admitted telling nurses not to tell the patient about the accident but said she did this to protect her.
 
The hearing continues.
 
By clinical negligence expert, Katie Nolan
 

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