Inquests relating to breast surgeon Ian Paterson – what happens next?
Specialist medical negligence solicitor Maria Panteli discusses the upcoming investigation and possible inquests into deaths relating to jailed breast surgeon Ian Paterson and what families of those affected by his treatment can expect
Posted on 06 June 2023
Acting as coroner at Birmingham and Solihull Coroner’s Court, Judge Foster has announced that a Pre-Inquest Review (PIR) will take place at Birmingham Coroner’s Court on Friday 9 June 2023.
The investigation led by Judge Foster is expected to investigate the deaths of up to 650 women, with each patient's medical records being carefully reviewed. Where it is considered that Mr Paterson’s actions caused or contributed to the death, an inquest shall be opened.
What happens at a Pre-Inquest Review?
An inquest is a public hearing, separate from other criminal or civil proceedings, that seeks to establish how, when and where a person has died. In investigating this, there may be consideration of whether the actions of an individual or organisation caused or contributed to the death.
A Pre-Inquest Review is a short case management hearing and will normally be listed when the matters to be heard at the inquest are complex and/or when it is likely to be some time before a final inquest can be listed. The coroner will determine the scope of the issues to be heard at the inquest. These may include:
- Determining the purpose of the inquest and the questions to be answered;
- Identifying ‘Interested Persons’ such as the family members of the deceased patients, Mr Paterson, the Hospital Trust and private hospitals he worked at and medical regulators;
- Considering the documents and evidence to be disclosed;
- Deciding who should be called to give witness evidence;
- Considering whether Article 2 of the ECHR is engaged. Article 2 will be engaged when failings of a systemic nature have contributed to a death;
- Determining whether a jury should be called;
- Setting a date for further Pre Inquest Reviews and the final inquest (which is expected to take place in Autumn 2025);
- Determining how long the final inquest will last.
A Pre-Inquest Review is held in public, although normally only the coroner and Interested Parties (and their representatives) will be present. Journalists can attend and report on anything said at the hearing.
Who takes part in an inquest?
The coroner invites Interested Persons or Interested Parties to take part in an inquest, this will always include the family of the deceased. In cases relating to medical treatment the NHS Trust of private healthcare provider involved in the care of the person who has died will usually take part, and will call healthcare professionals as witnesses.
Interested Parties have the right to make submissions to the coroner. If you are contacted by the coroner to say you are an Interested Party, or if you consider that you are an Interested Party, you have the right to have your own independent representation who can make submissions on your behalf.
How can the medical negligence team at Leigh Day help?
At Leigh Day, we have experience of assisting clients at inquests relating to their loved ones. We can assist in many ways including:
- Making applications for Legal Aid funding where applicable
- Obtaining medical records and other relevant documents
- Obtaining independent expert evidence
- Making legal submissions to the Coroner
- Instructing a barrister to represent the family
- Liaising with the press
An inquest can be an emotional experience for families. At Leigh Day, we can guide you through the process and ensure that your questions and concerns are considered.
In my own work, I have represented former patients of Ian Paterson and family members who have lost a loved one following incorrect treatment.
I welcome the investigation that will be carried out by the coroner into the deaths of former patients of Ian Paterson. This is a distressing and difficult time for those affected and I hope that the inquest will provide families with the answers that they are seeking.
I also hope that the inquest process will shine a light on any mistakes made and that that recommendations will be made to put in place robust measures to ensure such a tragedy does not occur again.
Specialist medical negligence claims lawyer with particular interest in missed cancer claims.
Judge investigates “hundreds of deaths” of Ian Paterson patients
A judge will take over the investigations into hundreds of deaths of women who were treated by jailed breast cancer surgeon Ian Paterson.