Jailed spine surgeon struck off

A SPINAL surgeon who pierced a woman’s heart on the operating table while on bail for laundering drug money has been struck off.

Dr Chinh Nguyen, 45, performed the surgery on Satwant Vohra, 55, a healthy mother-of-two, at a private hospital in December 2008, just months before he was jailed for five years.

The General Medical Council hearing was told he “inappropriately” recommended a discectomy as a treatment for Mrs Vohra’s chronic back pain without discussing alternative treatments.

Mrs Vohra suffered huge blood loss from a pierced aorta and died the following morning, the General Medical Council hearing was told.

Speaking after her death Mrs Vohra’s widower Baljit, 59, who runs the post office in Welwyn High Street, said: “I have lost a darling wife. It was completely unexpected.

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“My wife was healthy apart from a bad back.

“After seeing lots of people about it, we saw Mr Nguyen who advised surgery. He said it was a simple procedure.”

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Vietnamese-born Nguyen, who lived in the Holloway Road area of North London, was later sacked from his post at NHS-run Whittington Hospital.

The surgeon was jailed for five years in May 2009 for laundering �2.35m from cannabis farms across London.

He is still an inmate at HMP Sheppey Cluster, an open prison in Sheerness, Kent, but has been on day release throughout his two-week central London ‘fitness to practise’ hearing.

Panel chairman Alan Nisbett told Nguygen that a striking off order was “the only sufficient and proportionate way that patients, the public, and the reputation of the profession can be protected”.

Mr Nisbett said: “Suspension of your registration would not be a proportionate response to the seriousness of your conviction and your misconduct. Doctors, patients and members of the public need to be reassured that serious misconduct of the kind in which you have engaged is unacceptable.”

The hearing was told Mrs Vohra attended the private BMI Garden Hospital in Hendon on December 1, 2008, in unusually intense pain.

She had previously visited Nguyen for epidural injections.

Nguyen operated on her the next day, and immediately left hospital following the procedure, when colleagues noticed an abnormally low blood pressure, the GMC heard.

She had suffered huge blood loss from a pierced aorta and was transferred to nearby Whittington Hospital for emergency surgery.

Upon arrival, medics found her in cardiac arrest and for hours surgeons battled in vain to control the bleeding before pronouncing her dead at 7.50am the following morning.

The GMC ruled Nguyen’s decision to perform the operation was “inappropriate, not in the patient’s best interests, and not of a standard to be expected of a registered medical practitioner”.

Mr Nisbett told Nguyen he had shown a “reckless disregard” for good medical practice and his actions were “fundamentally incompatible with being a registered medical practitioner”.

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