Police examining 'avoidable' deaths after liver surgery

South Wales Argus: Pictured on her Wedding day in 2011 with her Uncle is Rachael Seivwright and Martyn Rogers. (2963210) Pictured on her Wedding day in 2011 with her Uncle is Rachael Seivwright and Martyn Rogers. (2963210)

EIGHT deaths of patients following liver surgery at a Cardiff hospital - including that of a Newport man - are being examined by police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The matter has been referred to South Wales Police by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, after a Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) review concluded that the deaths, following liver operations carried out by surgeon David Berry at the University Hospital of Wales, had been avoidable.

The move has been welcomed by the family of Martyn Rogers, 66, of Newport, who underwent surgery to remove liver tumours on July 18 last year at the University of Wales Hospital, Cardiff.

He died a week later of septic shock and pneumonia, after developing acute liver failure.

The RCS review, commissioned by the health board, stated that this was "possibly due to technical error at surgery with portal vein damage."

It concluded there were "poor judgement and technical errors", "reflecting poor operative skills", and that Mr Rogers' death was "avoidable."

Mr Berry, who came to work in Cardiff early in 2011, was suspended by the health board last January, and referred to the General Medical Council (GMC), which is investigating him and has imposed stringent conditions on his registration.

His suspension followed what a health board statement called "concerns about the outcomes of some liver patients whilst in his care" identified through monitoring procedures in October 2012.

The subsequent RCS review focused on the individual care of 31 patients on whom Mr Berry performed complex liver surgery. Ten of those patients died following that surgery, and the review concluded that eight of these deaths were avoidable.

For Mr Rogers' partner of 40 years Maria Davies, the grief and heartbreak at his death 16 months ago are still raw.

But they are also laced with an anger which has driven her to speak out, after it was revealed that his death was among eight deemed avoidable in the RCS review.

Ms Davies, who lives in Newport, had intended not to comment beyond voicing her anger and concern through her solicitor, but she told the Argus: "I want Martyn's face out there, to show the person behind the story, because this is all about people, not numbers, not 'patients'," she said.

"We spent a whole year wondering why he died - because we expected Martyn to make a full recovery - blaming ourselves for encouraging him into hospital."

Ms Davies added that an initial complaint about Mr Rogers' treatment had been in regard to another member of staff, and the first the family heard of an issue with Mr Berry was when they were informed by the health board this last July, a year after his death.

Since then, she and the family have grown frustrated at a lack of information about what happened.

"We just want some answers about Martyn's case, because I'm convinced he should be here today," said Ms Davies.

"Today (December 11) would have been his 68th birthday. His death knocked me for six, and then to find out it was avoidable - it's awful, very very upsetting.

"I'm so angry this was allowed to happen, and I want this investigation taken further because I think all those who died and their families are entitled to some sort of justice."

* Anyone concerned about the surgical care they received in relation to liver surgery from February 2011-October 2012 may telephone the helpline 0800 952 0244, which is open noon-8pm today and tomorrow. The helpline received 42 calls in the first five hours of operation, including some from other parts of the UK.

Dr Graham Shortland, Medical Director for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said there had been 42 calls to the hotline.

He said: “The hotline has taken a number of calls, including some from other parts of the UK, and nursing staff have been providing information and reassurance to members of the public. We are also pleased that the two remaining families who we have been trying to contact for some time have been in touch and we can offer them appropriate support.”

Comments (1)

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6:51pm Fri 13 Dec 13

cancersurvivorspouse says...

I feel very very sad for the family of Martyn Rogers. But I also have a differen tperspective. I have nothing but admiration for David Berry, as does my wife, and although we are shocked by the news you report of deaths judged by some observers (on undeclared criteria) to have been avoidable, we are not changed in our views and we fear a roller coster is underway in which he has little chance of a fair and balanced hearing in the media and the court of public opinion.

My wife had an advanced cancer which spread to her liver, and she also required a complex operation by David Berry. But in my wife’s case after four years things have turned out very different and very well.

The death of my wife would not have been avoided without the intervention, care, compassion and expertise of Mr Berry (as he was, as a consultant at the hospital in Leicester) and his team. The surgery he undertook was explained to us carefully, and we were made aware of real risks from all manner of things that might prove a problem or go wrong. Complex surgery is dangerous; there is sadly no certainty of success. In fact, we were led to believe by people we consulted other than Mr Berry himself that at that time the Leicester liver unit he led was one of the top in the country, notwithstanding it was prepared to operate on risky cases if that was what the patient (and their family wanted).

In the midst of the devastating fire-storm that has engulfed Mr Berry, as well as the tragedy of losing partners and relatives for people less fortunate than ourselves, my wife and I do nonetheless wish to assert publicly our support for Mr Berry. We cannot comprehend how it can be that his work had such a reputation as it did amongst everyone we encountered in our experience can be so different in Wales.

We do hope that a proper concern for monitoring and accountability, in the courts if necessary, the worries of managers and politicians in the current context of public concerns such as in Staffordhshire, and the despair of bereaved families does not unwittingly take out of our lives such an excellent man and surgeon - as we see it. We will of course consider the evidence when it is made available; but until then we assert that Mr Berry has our fullest confidence and will always in our case have our gratitude. My wife would not be celebrating her 60th birthday with friends and family tomorrow were it not for him (and others in the wonderful but not perfect NHS). We were going to toast him even before this story broke and we will do still.
I feel very very sad for the family of Martyn Rogers. But I also have a differen tperspective. I have nothing but admiration for David Berry, as does my wife, and although we are shocked by the news you report of deaths judged by some observers (on undeclared criteria) to have been avoidable, we are not changed in our views and we fear a roller coster is underway in which he has little chance of a fair and balanced hearing in the media and the court of public opinion. My wife had an advanced cancer which spread to her liver, and she also required a complex operation by David Berry. But in my wife’s case after four years things have turned out very different and very well. The death of my wife would not have been avoided without the intervention, care, compassion and expertise of Mr Berry (as he was, as a consultant at the hospital in Leicester) and his team. The surgery he undertook was explained to us carefully, and we were made aware of real risks from all manner of things that might prove a problem or go wrong. Complex surgery is dangerous; there is sadly no certainty of success. In fact, we were led to believe by people we consulted other than Mr Berry himself that at that time the Leicester liver unit he led was one of the top in the country, notwithstanding it was prepared to operate on risky cases if that was what the patient (and their family wanted). In the midst of the devastating fire-storm that has engulfed Mr Berry, as well as the tragedy of losing partners and relatives for people less fortunate than ourselves, my wife and I do nonetheless wish to assert publicly our support for Mr Berry. We cannot comprehend how it can be that his work had such a reputation as it did amongst everyone we encountered in our experience can be so different in Wales. We do hope that a proper concern for monitoring and accountability, in the courts if necessary, the worries of managers and politicians in the current context of public concerns such as in Staffordhshire, and the despair of bereaved families does not unwittingly take out of our lives such an excellent man and surgeon - as we see it. We will of course consider the evidence when it is made available; but until then we assert that Mr Berry has our fullest confidence and will always in our case have our gratitude. My wife would not be celebrating her 60th birthday with friends and family tomorrow were it not for him (and others in the wonderful but not perfect NHS). We were going to toast him even before this story broke and we will do still. cancersurvivorspouse

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