Shropshire death case surgeon is cleared for operations

An orthopaedic surgeon from Shropshire accused of failing to provide sufficient care for a patient who died following an operation has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The surgeon Professor James Richardson
The surgeon Professor James Richardson

Professor James Richardson has been declared fit to practise by the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service after an investigation into the death of 43-year-old father-of-three Louis Belcuore.

Professor Richardson was performing keyhole knee surgery on Mr Belcuore at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen, near Oswestry, in October 2009 when his patient suffered a massive heart attack due to an air bubble in his heart.

Panel members sitting in Manchester found a number of accusations against Professor Richardson for failing to provide a good standard of clinical care for Mr Belcuore had not been proven.

The General Medical Council had alleged Professor Richardson had not provided good clinical care to his patient as he had made significant modifications to a device, had not subjected the modifications to robust and documented risk assessments, failed to ensure the patient knew about the modifications and had not gained written consent.

But, while the panel found proven that he had not used the device in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines or carried out risk assessments, the other allegations were found not proven.

The panel agreed it was likely air got into Mr Belcuore’s blood through an ‘undetectable’ cyst in the knee.

Panel chairman Michael Menlow said: “This is a tragic case in which a young man lost his life and the panel extends its condolences to his family.”

In 2009 Mr Belcuore agreed to take part in a clinical trial, but during the procedure Professor Richardson used a medical device known as a Quixil contrary to manufacture Johnson and Johnson’s guidelines.

A later inquest recorded a narrative verdict and found Mr Belcuore, from Warwickshire, had died from an air embolism during arthroscopic surgery.

Mr Belcuore, who was known as Louis, had two young daughters but did not live to find out his wife Penny was also pregnant with their first son - now aged two.

Last month, following a ruling at the High Court in Birmingham, the payment of a substantial and undisclosed sum was finalised to the family of Mr Belcuore by The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital which employed Professor Richardson.

The trust has previously admitted liability for what happened.