Four women may have died ‘unnatural deaths’ from botched treatment at the hands of butchering breast surgeon Ian Paterson and systemic failings in the NHS, an inquest has heard.
Coroners in Birmingham have announced fresh inquests to establish the cause of death, and whether it resulted from Paterson’s ‘experimental mastectomies’ which left cancerous tissue inside the body, allowing the disease to return.
The deaths of Yvonne Cordon, 39, a cleaner from Northern Ireland, Shionagh Gough, 73, a purchaser and wife of a retired doctor, Marie Pinfield, 49, a divorced police officer, and Deborah Hynes, 51, will be investigated.
All died between 2000 and 2008. Their death certificates state they died either as a result of metastatic breast cancer or metastatic melanoma.
As many as 675 out of 1,207 women who underwent the unregulated treatment with Paterson had died by 2017, with others finding out years later they had received operations they did not need.
Paterson, a father-of-three who police said had a ‘God complex’, was jailed for 20 years in 2017 after being convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding between 1997 and 2011.
Formerly of Altrincham, near Manchester, the trial heard how he exaggerated or invented cancer risks among patients and claimed payments for performing more expensive procedures in some cases.
The former doctor, who practised at private clinics and NHS hospitals in the West Midlands, was ordered in February to hand back £216,000 he received in legal aid after his extensive US and UK property empire was revealed.
Ian Paterson, 62, is serving 20 years in jail for 17 counts of wounding with intent (pictured at the Old Bailey)
Marie Pinfield (left) pictured with her sister Shirley Moroney. Her death will be investigated
Birmingham and Solihull coroner Louise Hunt opened hearings into the four deaths today and sail all the cases will be investigated together, and will look to establish whether their deaths may have been ’caused or contributed to by acts or treatment provided by Mr Paterson’.
The court heard that other clinicians and hospital management will also be probed to check if ‘systemic failings’ led to any of the fatalities.
Jailed for 20 years for wounding with intent: Ian Paterson
Butchering breast surgeon Ian Paterson is currently serving his 20-year prison sentence.
What was he convicted of? He was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding between 1997 and 2011, after a trial in 2017.
How did he harm patients? Paterson carried out ‘experimental mastectomies’ on women that left the breast tissue in place, allowing the cancer to return.
In some cases, he also advised treatment for women when they did not have cancer and offered them more expensive procedures.
Who has been affected? 675 out of 1,207 women who underwent the unregulated treatment had died by 2017.
Where did he work? Paterson worked at NHS hospitals in the West Midlands and private clinics.
Mrs Hunt said: ‘Following preliminary investigations that have been undertaken by Birmingham and Solihull coroner’s office I have reason to believe that the deceased’s deaths may have been caused or contributed to by acts or treatment provided by Mr Paterson and potentially other clinicians.
‘I anticipate that in the inquest the following issues will be addressed. The inquest will consider the care provided by Mr Paterson and other clinicians.
‘It will also consider whether their deaths were contributed to by failings in the supervision of Mr Paterson by his clinical colleagues, hospital management, and corporate governance.
‘Secondly whether there were systemic failings by the hospital management and corporate governance in relation to addressing concerns raised about Mr Paterson.
‘Thirdly whether there were failings by regulatory authorities such as the Care Quality Commission, General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council and lastly failings in the recall of patients.’
She added: ‘We anticipate that there will be further cases to open in the following months.
‘What we expect is that investigations will find generic issues common to all the cases.
‘The most sensible way to investigate this number of cases is to investigate them all together.’
Ms Cordon died in November 200 at John Taylor Hospital in Erdington, Birmingham. Ms Gough died in June 2006 in Solihull, Ms Pinfield died in August 2008 in a Marie Curie hospice in Solihull.
Paterson was employed by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, but practised at Spire Hospitals in Solihull and Little Aston in the West Midlands.
Victim Patricia Welch (centre) speaks outside Nottingham Crown Court following Ian Paterson’s sentencing in 2017
Coroners said on Saturday that, following investigations, they believed ‘there is evidence to have reason to suspect that some of those deaths may be unnatural’.
West Midlands police asked Birmingham and Solihull coroner’s office to investigate 23 deaths in the disgraced 62-year-old surgeon’s patients, after asking them to look at a ‘random selection’.
It is unclear whether today’s ruling means further deaths will be investigated.
An independent inquiry which released its findings in February this year said Paterson was able to go on performing unnecessary operations for years under a dysfunctional healthcare system that failed patients.
The Paterson inquiry, launched in May 2018, published 15 recommendations after hearing 177 first-hand accounts from the surgeon’s patients.
Among recommendations, it urged NHS trust that employed Paterson and private health firm Spire Healthcare to check that all of the more than 11,000 patients he treated had been recalled.
Tracey Smith (left) and Debbie Douglas outside The Bond Company, Birmingham, after Inquiry chairman, the Right Rev Graham James, presented a report and its findings of the Ian Paterson inquiry
Inquiry chairman Rt Rev Graham James said the NHS and independent providers had let patients down over the years, and described a failure to suspend him in 2003, when a colleague raised concerns, as inexplicable.
In the aftermath of his convictions, it was revealed that he received more than £200,000 in legal aid despite owning a lavish property portfolio.
His patients received on average only £50,000.
In 2015 the Scottish-born surgeon bought a three-bedroom condominium in Florida, which he still co-owned in 2018 with his twin daughters. It was estimated to be worth £107,000 two years ago.
But the US property was nothing compared to his UK family home. The Grade-II listed Georgian mansion was sold in July 2013 for £1.25million. It boasts eight bedrooms, four reception rooms, a wine cellar and a gym.
He had also invested in buy-to-let properties.
Paterson and his wife Louisa, a physiotherapist, divorced shortly before his trial.
In the aftermath of Paterson’s convictions, details emerged about his lavish property portfolio and love of expensive paintings and fine wine. Pictured: Ian Paterson’s home in Florida
Linda Millband, the national clinical negligence lead at Thompsons Solicitors who led the team taking legal action on behalf of 650 of Paterson’s former patients, said: ‘This is yet another twist in the terrible story of Ian Paterson. This has been a horrific tale from start to finish, and it seems as if, for the families, the nightmare is not over yet.
‘It is absolutely essential that we get to the truth, so I welcome the coroner’s inquests into the deaths. My heart goes out to the families who are affected, and who now have to face yet more upheaval while they wait for answers.’
A Legal Aid Agency spokesman told the Daily Mail in February: ‘We’ve completed our investigation into Mr Paterson’s claim and are taking immediate action to get every penny of taxpayers’ money back.’