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Hamburg Regional Court: Verdict against two physicians

Photo: Markus Scholz / picture alliance/dpa

The Hamburg Regional Court has sentenced two doctors to fines for the death of a nine-year-old during an outpatient operation. The 65-year-old surgeon was found guilty of bodily injury resulting in death, a spokesman said. He was fined 150 daily rates of 440 euros.

The 69-year-old former co-owner of the practice was sentenced to a fine of 75 daily rates of 70 euros for aiding and abetting bodily injury resulting in death by omission. However, the two doctors do not have to pay the penalties – according to the spokesman, they are considered to have already been executed due to the long duration of the proceedings.

Child died of postoperative bleeding

The nine-year-old had died in March 2007 after a routine operation in the practice of the two ear, nose and throat doctors. The procedure itself, which was performed under general anesthesia, went without complications, but the boy was not adequately monitored during the wake-up phase. There was an initially unnoticed postoperative bleeding, as a result of which the child died days later.

The prosecution accused the surgeon of not having sufficiently informed the father of the child before the operation. In addition, the infrastructure of the practice was inadequate. The co-owner of the practice is jointly responsible for the structural deficiencies in the institution.

"It's very tragic"

The Trial Chamber found that the medical assistants in the practice had not received any special training in the monitoring of patients after surgery. This was a violation of the standards in force at the time. In addition, they would not have regularly used the existing pulse oximeters to monitor the oxygen content in the blood. The recovery room of the practice also did not have a device that could have been used to suck out the patient's airways in an emergency. However, there was a bell for the patients. This proves that the medical assistants were not constantly present in the recovery room and had other tasks to do on the side.

"It is very tragic because the boy's death could have been prevented if the boy had been monitored after the operation," the presiding judge said. The father and mother of the child are no longer together, the father a broken man. The case was also tragic for the defendants.

The case has already occupied many courts, including the Federal Constitutional Court. The anesthesiologist involved in the operation was sentenced to a fine at the end of 2009 for negligent homicide by omission. The child's father was a joint plaintiff in the trial. His lawyer said in his plea that his client only wanted "this to stop". He no longer has a need for punishment.