Incompetent NHS surgeon botches kidney transplant
The surgeon was a Sudanese — obviously yet another of the many poorly-trained overseas doctors working for the NHS
A businessman who donated a kidney to save his gravely ill father had his life wrecked when the ‘reckless’ surgeon bungled the operation, a court heard yesterday. He suffered ‘torrential’ blood loss which destroyed his remaining kidney and left him needing lifelong care.
The operation went ahead despite the desperate anxieties of the man’s wife, whose worst fears came true.
The couple, whose children were aged one and three at the time, are not being named because of the acute vulnerability of the businessman, who is 38 and was referred to as Mr XYZ. He is suing the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, for £14million in compensation at the High Court in London.
Once a leading executive in the pharmaceutical industry, he decided to risk his life for his father, who needed a transplant.
Mr XYZ went into the hospital’s Wessex Renal and Transplant Unit in early 2008, but surgeon Kamal Abusin made ‘serial mistakes’ during the operation, which was ‘in some respects reckless’ and should never have gone ahead, the businessman’s barrister, Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC, told the court.
Although the man’s father, who is in his 60s and had been suffering from renal failure, survived and initially did well with his son’s donated kidney, it had devastating consequences for Mr XYZ.
The businessman suffered a heart attack on the operating table and spent more than a year on dialysis until his sister saved his life by donating a kidney in March last year. The botched operation has also left him with other grave medical problems, including nerve damage affecting his right leg, Miss Gumbel said.
She told the judge: ‘He has paid a very great price for assisting his father. The claimant, formerly a dynamic, extremely hard-working and very highly thought of family and professional man, has been shattered by this. ‘He faces a life filled with considerable uncertainty. He remains on edge as to whether the kidney will be rejected. He has suffered recurrent infection which was imported with his sister’s kidney.’
Miss Gumbel added that, ‘sooner or later’, the sister’s kidney will require replacement. To stop rejection of his new organ, he is on medication which suppresses his immune system and makes him extremely vulnerable to infection.
Miss Gumbel told Mr Justice Spencer the medical catastrophe had had a ‘profound and life-changing effect’ on her client who, after a glittering career in the pharmaceutical industry, had to abandon his hopes of setting up his own business.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted liability, the court heard. The surgeon himself faces a disciplinary hearing at the General Medical Council.
The man’s wife – who says her deep concerns about the surgery should never have been allayed by medics – is also suing for her psychological trauma.
Mr XYZ is claiming £14million for the care he will need for the rest of his life, medical expenses and loss of earnings from his wrecked career.
Alcohol is more harmful than crack or heroin
Libertarians have been saying this for ages but the “modelling” below is a bit of a joke. One just has to look at the frequency of alcohol-involved traffic accidents
Alcohol causes more harm than heroin or crack cocaine, according to a new study by Professor David Nutt, the government’s former chief drug adviser. In an article published in the Lancet, the drug expert presents a new way of measuring drug damage that assesses both harm to the individual and harm to the rest of society.
His analysis shows that when both factors are combined, alcohol is the most damaging drug, followed by heroin and crack.
The paper is written by Professor Nutt, of Imperial College London, and the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Dr Leslie King, UK Expert Adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and Dr Lawrence Phillips, London School of Economics and Political Science.
The new assessment used nine categories of harm to the self and seven to society as a whole. The “harm to self” categories cover mortality, poor health, impaired mental functioning, loss of friendships and injury. The “harm to others” categories include crime, environmental damage, family conflict and decline in community cohesion.
Heroin, crack, and crystal meth were the most harmful drugs to the individual, whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack were the most harmful to others. The modelling showed that as well as being the most harmful drug overall, alcohol is almost three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco.
It also showed that alcohol is more than five-times more harmful than mephedrone, which was recently a so-called legal high in the UK before it was made a class B controlled drug in April 2010.
Ecstasy, which has had much harm-related media attention over the past two decades, is only one eighth as harmful as alcohol in this new analysis.
They conclude: “Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm. They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.”
Prof Nutt was chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he was dismissed last year after saying ecstasy was less harmful than alcohol.
Britain to “profile” air travellers
Millions of air travellers face sweeping new security tests, including passenger profiling and checks against a secret watchlist, it emerged last night.
Searches could be carried out according to race, ethnicity, age and gender – a move certain to anger civil rights groups fearing Muslims will be disproportionately targeted.
The examinations will also check for criminal convictions, immigration problems and links to terror suspects.
Passenger profiling has been resisted by previous Home Secretaries because it means far greater numbers of travellers will be stopped, searched and barred from flying.
The crackdown came amid further developments in the investigation into the cargo plane bomb plot:
* The two ‘ink bombs’ from Yemen contained 300 grams and 400 grams of explosive PETN, 50 times more than is needed to blow a hole in a plane.
* A tip-off from an ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee and supergrass led to the plot being foiled.
* David Cameron had been kept in the dark over the bomb found at East Midlands Airport for nine hours.
* New restrictions will be placed on freight planes coming from Somalia – the African state known to be home to Al Qaeda cells
* Toner cartridges larger than 500g will also be banned from hand baggage on flights departing from the UK, and on cargo flights unless they originate from a shipper cleared by the Government.
But under the prospective rules people could find themselves placed on enhanced Home Office no-fly lists, which will see them turned away when they arrive at the airport.
Alternatively, they will be added to a larger list of those who should be subject to special measures such as enhanced screening. Many of the passengers will not know why they are being put through rigorous full body searches and other checks.
More controversially, Home Secretary Theresa May has refused to rule out the introduction of passenger profiling. This will anger libertarian Tory MPs and Liberal Democrats who have made much of their wish to end the ‘Big Brother’ state.
But Mrs May told MPs: ‘We are in a constant battle with the terrorists. They are always looking for another way, another innovative way, in which they can try to get around our defences.
‘Our job, and the job of our security and intelligence agencies and the police, is to ensure that we are doing all we can to make sure that there are no gaps in our defences.’
Earlier Mr Cameron had stressed Britain must take every possible step to ‘cut out the terrorist cancer’ in the Arabian Peninsula. He praised the work of police and intelligence agencies in preventing terrorists ‘killing and maiming many innocent people, whether here or elsewhere’.
But Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary warned against overreacting. ‘Every time we have a terrorist scare, the first thing that goes out the window is common sense,’ he said. ‘We in the aviation industry are all for effective security measures such as taking knives off passengers, but we are all opposed to ludicrous and ineffective measures.’
The package found at East Midlands Airport surprised many experts by its size. Tests in the U.S. have shown that just 50g of PETN can blow a hole in an aircraft and both ink bombs were far bigger than the 80g of explosives the Christmas Day bomber carried in his underwear.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian who studied in Britain, tried to detonate his device over Detroit.
The device was removed from the UPS aircraft by Leicestershire police officers, working with the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, who boarded the UPS plane at 3.30am on Friday.
However No 10 disclosed that neither Mr Cameron nor the Home Office were told about what was happening at the airport until later that day.
‘Both the Home Office and Downing Street were updated at the same time by the relevant police force,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. ‘These were decisions taken by the local police force. They were the people on the ground. They were the people best-placed to make these judgments and refer the matter to the Home Secretary, the Home Office and Downing Street as soon as they judged that was the thing to do.’
The spokesman would not be drawn on whether Mr Cameron had been told of the intelligence warning – reportedly received from an MI6 source in Saudi Arabia on Thursday night – which led to the discovery of devices at East Midlands and on a FedEx cargo plane in Dubai. In contrast, the White House has said that the U.S. President had been kept fully informed of developments since Thursday night.
Passenger profiling would see selected travellers given tougher security checks before a flight. Those behaving suspiciously or having an unusual travel pattern could be picked out
Other factors might include racial or religious profiling. This has sparked concern Muslims will be disproportionately targeted.
The profiling could be carried out by airport security staff or through computer analysis. A passenger could be given extra screening if they ‘tick boxes’ such as arriving from a high-risk country, being alone or not having a return flight or luggage.
Currently, airport staff act on suspicious passenger behaviour or specific intelligence instead of profiling.
Countries including the U.S. and Israel already use the system. The idea has been suggested in the UK a number of times in recent years – normally in response to an airline terror alert
In January, Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the UK could move to profiling in response to the Detroit Christmas Day bomb plot. Surprisingly, given the opposition expected from civil liberties groups, the Coalition has now said it will also consider the idea. Home Secretary Theresa May said yesterday all techniques would be examined.
Small firms should be free to fire at will says British enterprise tsar
Companies should be able to fire staff more easily, one of the Coalition’s key advisers said yesterday. Lord Young, who served as Employment Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, said firms were reluctant to create jobs because it was too difficult to get rid of staff.
The peer has been asked by the Prime Minister to come up with a ‘brutally honest’ report on how to overturn the ‘institutional bias’ against small businesses. But he also favours freeing up firms from the layers of red tape imposed over the past two decades.
He said yesterday: ‘Back in the early 1980s, when we had very extensive employment protection, we took it away and as a result employment went up. Firms are inhibited from taking people on if it’s too difficult to let them go if things get tough.’
The peer also took a swipe at government plans to force all employers to pay into pension plans. He said: ‘Things that big companies take in their stride, small companies find difficult.’
His intervention came as the Government announced a range of measures to provide a lifeline to Britain’s 4.8 million small firms – including extending a loan guarantee scheme.
David Cameron admitted that it was difficult to find ways to get banks to lend. ‘You can go for lending agreements with the banks. The trouble is, what I find with lending agreements is that they will promise to do a certain amount of lending to one sector, but they’ll shrink it somewhere else,’ he said on a visit to a business park in Hertfordshire.
The measures unveiled by Business Secretary Vince Cable, Business Minister Mark Prisk and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude include:
* A target of giving a quarter of government contracts to firms with fewer than 250 employees
* Encouraging social housing tenants to start up businesses from their front rooms
* A £2 billion extension of a loan guarantee scheme for small and medium firms for another four years.
Ministers are also considering a fee for employment tribunals to deter opportunistic claims. And the Government wants to double the length of time employees have to work for a firm before they make a claim against their bosses, from one year to two.
Industry groups welcomed the measures. David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘The Government’s move to bring together policies to support smaller businesses will be seen as a vote of confidence by the firms that really drive the UK economy.
‘We are pleased that the Government has committed to extending the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, which has helped many businesses secure the working capital they need. ‘Moves to simplify public sector procurement processes will also be welcomed.’
No fun, please, we’re British environmentalists
Just in time for the winter holidays, the government has announced that it plans to hike the Air Passenger Duty by up to 50%. The measure is defended as a revenue-raising ‘green’ measure, but it fails on both counts. What’s more, it’s the worst kind of tax – one which directly penalizes fun.
The first defence of the levy is that it will raise revenue for the government. Maybe so – any form of taxation will do so. But this is the sort of tax that has a strong disincentivizing effect on people’s decisions about where to travel. The levy for European flights is one sixth of that of, say, a flight to the Caribbean. The government already massively taxes air travel, and adding more taxes will simply kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The Laffer curve applies as much to consumption taxes as to anything else – tax something too much and revenues will decline as the cost of that activity outweighs the benefits.
The second defence of the levy is that it is ‘green’. Again, this is partially true – if you stop people from doing things that generate CO2, you will marginally reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But the Air Passenger Duty is a blunt tool – it doesn’t differentiation between airplanes of differing CO2 output, and it taxes flights to the Bahamas (4,347 miles from London) more than to Los Angeles (5,448 miles) or Hawai’i (7234 miles). I’m not convinced of the need for any anti-CO2 measures, but even I was, this would be a bad way of going about it.
This duty hike is especially rotten because it taxes one of the most fun things most people have in their lives. Spending months toiling in boring jobs, with even lower-rate taxpayers already forced to pay nearly 40% of it to the government through income tax and VAT, is often only bearable because of the hope of a few weeks away in an exotic country. Certainly, the ministers behind the hike won’t be affected, and like cigarette and alcohol duties this is a regressive tax that will hit the people least able to pay the hardest. Adam Smith once wrote that taxes should be proportionate, nonarbitrary, convenient and low. I’d add one point – that they don’t try to stamp out fun.
Greenie BBC journalist: “We may be the only reliably independent source our audiences have”
These guys don’t know how funny they sound. Note the contradiction between the 6th and 7th paragraphs below. It’s perilously close to mental illness. Psychiatrists call it “compartmentalization”
A FORMER environmental correspondent with BBC, Alex Kirby says Journalists’ roles are to keep the public informed about climate change issues. Mr Kirby explained this during his presentation at the Climate Action Conference in Brussels, Belgium last week.
About 96 journalists from European Union and other countries outside the continent have attended the conference.
The conference was aimed to give journalists the EU’s perspective ahead of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico next month.
Kirby said: “We need to keep telling our audiences that climate change is happening, that it’s happening fast, that scientists cannot explain what is happening unless they factor in the influence of human activities, that decisions and actions we take – or fail to take – today may have effects decades and centuries ahead, and that apart from anything else climate change will make other problems – like water shortage, hunger and species loss – even harder to solve,” he said.
Mr Kirby said reporters should not be entertainers or campaigners either. “On one level, our job is what it always has been, and that is to remain just simple and effective reporters. “That makes a number of demands of us. Perhaps the first demand is to remember that we may be the only reliably independent source our audiences have.
6. “More and more people, some with the best of motives, want to turn us into useful megaphones. Governments, NGOs, industry, negotiating blocs, parts of the UN would all like us to join their search for a better world,” he said.
7. However, Mr Kirby said good reporters remember that climate change is already changing and shortening lives. “It’s not just an abstraction to be argued over in Cancun, or Brussels, or wherever. It’s the thinning Arctic ice which lets hunters fall through to their deaths. “It’s persistent drought and unusually frequent flooding. It’s flesh-and-blood stories that need telling, best of all through the words of the people who are living them,” he said.
But Kirby warns that journalists should now allow the climate skeptics to call the tune. “Time and again in my early BBC environment days I would write a piece on climate and be told: “OK, now get a skeptic to provide balance.” Perhaps we’ve moved on. But those who deny the science still hold undue sway over many news desks.
“In fact the most skeptical people I know include the climate scientists themselves, because they know that’s how science works. It’s always worth asking skeptics whether they have had their claims peer-reviewed and published.
“And it’s worth remembering the advice of the British journalist Hannen Swaffer about our own need to be consistently skeptical. “When a journalist is speaking to a politician”, he said, “there is only one question he needs to ask himself. It is this: ‘Why is this lying bastard telling me this particular lie at this particular moment?’” He was of course speaking about British politicians in office during his lifetime, and I quote him strictly within that context. But if we are not always deeply skeptical, we shall not deserve to survive in journalism,” he said.
Most British parents find school admissions stressful
Getting your kid into a safe school can be a nightmare in Britain
Parents believe England’s school admissions system is an unfair and confusing process, with many admitting they will go to any lengths to secure a favoured place for their child, a poll suggests today.
Six in 10 parents (60 per cent) say they found it, or are finding it stressful not knowing if their youngster will get a place at their preferred school. And nearly one in four (24 per cent) admit they feel the whole application procedure is confusing and overwhelming.
The poll, conducted by the parenting website Netmums, comes as parents across England submit their secondary school application forms. The deadline for many areas was yesterday.
The findings show that parents are concerned about the choice of school in their area, with over half (53 per cent) saying there is a big difference between their preferred school and the others in their area – enough for them to feel it really mattered, or matters which one they get a place at.
A breakdown reveals this is true of parents of children of all ages, with 56 per cent of parents with children of secondary school saying there was a difference, along with 57 per cent of those with pre-schoolers and 54 per cent of those with primary age youngsters.
More than four in 10 (44 per cent) of all the parents questioned said their child was worried they would be split up from their friends, while a similar proportion (39 per cent) found it difficult to understand why they might not get a place in the school they wanted to go to.
Nearly one in four parents (24 per cent) did not think their local admissions system was fair, with one in six (15 per cent) saying all areas should be moved to a “lottery system”. Under this process children’s names are effectively picked out of a hat and allocated schools.
Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, said: “Applying for a secondary school is both terrifying and stressful – as a parent you know that this decision will impact on not only your child’s education but also on their friendship circle, social life, extra curricular activities and sense of self.”
The poll found that the distance from school process is still most commonly used to allocate places, but not everyone is in favour of it. More than one in four (26 per cent) of the parents polled said they felt this method is unfair because it can cause house prices to rise in the area, which would leave only better-off families able to afford it.
But the process of selecting pupils based on ability, used by many grammar schools, is also unpopular, with a third (34 per cent) saying it is wrong that some state schools use entrance exams, because children that are privately tutored have a better chance.
The survey also asked parents the lengths they are willing to go to in order to obtain a place at a good school. Nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) said they would be willing to move house, while nearly half (43 per cent) simply said they would do “whatever it takes”.
Just under one in 10 (9 per cent) said they would lie about where they live, over one in five (22 per cent) said they would go to church just to get their child into a good school, and over one in 10 (11 per cent) said they would give a cash donation to their preferred school to increase the chance of their child being accepted.
Parents of younger children are more likely to go to any lengths with 43 per cent of those with pre-schoolers and 44 per cent of those with primary age children saying they will do whatever it takes, compared to 39 per cent of those with secondary age youngsters.
If their child does not get a preferred place, more than one in four parents (27 per cent) said they would fight the decision “all the way”, while almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) said they would appeal. Just one in five (21 per cent) said they would accept the decision.
Ms Freegard added: “It is possible to affect the outcome of the often-convoluted admissions process by moving house and/or by paying for home tutors to school your child through exams. Unfortunately this means the system often favours middle class parents, leaving others without those means at their disposal feeling powerless and sidelined.”
The poll questioned 1,565 parents in October.
School bullying coverup now before a tribunal
Carol Hill, 61, who dragged four boys away from Chloe David, seven, after discovering they had tied her to a chain-link fence and whipped her with a skipping rope was sacked after disclosing the event to the girl’s mother.
Deborah Crabb, headmistress at Great Tey Primary School, Colchester, Essex, wrote to Claire and Scott David claiming their daughter had been ‘hurt in a skipping rope incident’.
Carol, who was suspended for breaching pupil confidentiality after she told Claire how the injuries occurred, claims she was made a ‘scapegoat’ and sacked as part of a ‘cover up’.
She appeared at an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, today where she alleged unfair dismissal against the school. Before the hearing Carol said: ‘I just want my job back because I haven’t done anything wrong. I love the job and I love the school.’
Headmistress Mrs Crabb sent a letter to Chloe’s parents Claire, 29, and Scott, 33, a steel worker, from Chappell, Essex, explaining she had been hurt in an ‘incident’. But Carol told Claire the details of the bullying and abuse later the same day at Beaver Scouts where they volunteered together.
Carol, who earned £6.20-an-hour as a dinner lady, was called into Mrs Crabb’s office a week after the incident and suspended for breaching confidentiality.
She was dismissed from her post for gross misconduct in September 2009 after she appeared before a disciplinary hearing chaired by a panel of three governors. An internal appeal against the dismissal was thrown out in November 2009 despite former education minister Ed Balls writing a letter demanding an investigation.
Carol has lost over a stone in weight since her dismissal and is suffering from stress induced high blood pressure.
She claims unfair dismissal because her rights have been infringed under article 10 of the European Convention, the right to freedom of expression. Carol also claims she wasn’t given sufficient notice before her dismissal.
Mrs Crabb told the tribunal that the school has received 80 hate mail letters, 150 emails and ‘numerous’ phone calls following the incident. She said: ‘I remember seeing the school secretary literally shaking when one email was received from an unknown sender.’