Fatal bug surgeon John Lu takes challenges hospital consent plan

John Lu Image copyright Other
Image caption Surgeon John Lu was found to have infected 11 patients

A heart surgeon who has not operated since he transmitted a bug to five patients who later died has told the High Court he should not have to disclose his past to patients.

John Lu infected 11 Nottingham patients with a bacteria between 2008 and 2009 and five of these later died.

Mr Lu stopped operating once he found out he was the source of the infection.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust proposes he warns future patients about his role in the outbreak.

Of 28 patients on whom Mr Lu operated between December 2008 and July 2009 at the Trent Cardiac Centre, 11 became infected with prosthetic valve endiocarditis (PVE) and five died.

This was linked to Mr Lu's "unwitting colonisation" by an antibiotic-resistant strain of staphylococcus epidermis, a generally harmless bacterium found on the skin.

It can cause serious infection, however, if it attaches to a surgical implant such as a heart valve.

Career 'in jeopardy'

Mark Sutton QC, Mr Lu's counsel, told the court his client had not worked for four years and said "no negligence has attached to him".

Mr Lu is challenging the terms of the patient consent arrangements proposed by the NHS trust, as well as some of the re-entry programme he must undergo before returning to the operating theatre.

When asked about whether Mr Lu would volunteer information to his patients about the PVE outbreak, he replied: "The important thing is the fact that I present no higher risk than any other surgeon and I will always truthfully explain the risk in terms of the operation the patient is going for," said Mr Lu.

Damien Brown QC, acting for the trust, said: "Do you think a patient who had an operation and subsequently found out about the outbreak incident would be entirely happy?"

Mr Lu said he could not predict public reactions but the form of patient consent proposed by the trust would place his career in "great jeopardy".

The hearing is expected to last for two weeks and Mr Justice Lewis said he may reserve his decision.

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