Surgeon cleared in knee op death case

By Ian Dipple Friday 22 February 2013 Updated: 22/02 10:03

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Buy photos » Businessman Luigi Belcuore died after having air injected into his knee. (s)

A SURGEON has been cleared of wrong-doing over the death of a father of three during a knee operation.

Professor James Richardson has been allowed to continue his career after a fitness to practise hearing, held by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, found all the key facts against him unproven.

Prof Richardson was under investigation following the death of Luigi Belcuore, from Morton Bagot near Studley, in 2009. The 43-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest during a procedure to remove knee cartilage in a clinical trial at the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire. An inquest recorded a narrative verdict stating he had died from an air embolism during arthroscopic surgery.

Prof Richardson used a piece of equipment used to blow air into the knee joint, which he had modified for the operation, during the procedure.

During the five week hearing Prof Richardson faced allegations he had failed to provide good clinical care, had not informed Mr Belcuore of the use of the modified device and the changes made, had not got consent and that his actions had increased the risk of an air embolism.

After hearing expert testimony the panel found the outcome of the surgery could not reasonably have been foreseen and was the result of an abnormal and undetectable pseudo cyst.

It also accepted Mr Belcuore had been shown a diagram of how the operation was to be performed, which included arrows representing air, even though Prof Richardson had not named the actual device. All expert witnesses agreed consent had been satisfactorily obtained.

The panel did find Prof Richardson's modification of the device was not in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines, a robust risk assessment had not been carried out and he had used a different type of needle, but none of these changed the overall findings.

Michael Menlowe, the tribunal's chairman, said: "This is a tragic case in which a young man lost his life. The panel extends its condolences to the family."

Mr Belcuore's wife Penny only found out after her husband's death she was pregnant with their third child. The hospital Trust has admitted liability and apologised to the family and an undisclosed compensation payment has been made.

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