Woman left disabled after surgeon ‘experimented’ on her – ‘I was his guinea pig’

Only 21 at the time, Leann Sutherland placed her trust in the (now former) head of neurosurgery at NHS Tayside, Mr Sam Eljamel.

Before her operation in 2011, Leann lived a normal life – she worked full-time and enjoyed holidays with her friends.

Leann’s procedure – to abate her migraines – involved removing a small part of her skull to alleviate unnecessary pressure and would be sealed with a new glue.

“Unfortunately it did not seal properly and it burst,” Leann told the BBC. “The wound burst open and the brain fluid started to pour out the back of my neck.”

The now 33-year-old claimed her hospital bed the next day was “soaked” with her spinal fluid.

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Then, when she got up to go to the bathroom, she collapsed, prompting her mum to chase Mr Eljamel down the corridor for help.

Rushed back to surgery, Leann spent months in hospital after contracting meningitis and developing hydrocephalus.

A BBC investigation claimed Mr Eljamel was harming patients and putting them at risk for many years, but the health board had continued to let him operate.

NHS Tayside consistently rebuffed the claims, stating they only knew about concerns from June 2013, which resulted in Mr Eljamel being put under supervision.

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Leann is convinced Mr Eljamel experimented on her – “that’s what he was doing”.

She claimed: “There can’t be any other reason to try a glue, try different shunts, that’s experimenting. I was his guinea pig.”

Leann added: “He had free rein on my body. He was playing god with my body and the NHS handed him the scalpel.”

Now Leann lives in constant pain, she requires crutches to walk, and has a shunt through her body to control her spinal fluid.

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“Everything has changed,” Leann said. “My dream was to be a police officer and that will never happen.”

Leann added: “I struggle with that, not being able to have the career you want, not being able to have the lifestyle you want, not being able to have children.

“A lot of things have been taken away through no fault of my own.”

Leann is one of 99 patients calling for a public inquiry to find out the harm that Mr Eljamel did.

“I don’t understand how he got to wash the blood off his hands and go home,” said Leann.

Mr Eljamel was suspended by NHS Tayside following internal and external reviews in 2013 and went to work in Libya.

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “The NHS Tayside medical director and chief executive met with the cabinet secretary and local Tayside MSPs in April to discuss the ongoing concerns of patients of Professor Eljamel.

“It was agreed at the meeting that NHS Tayside would work with Scottish government regarding the next steps to support individual patients through a process independent of both the health board and government.

“NHS Tayside remains committed to do whatever is required to support the independent process recognising it will be tailored to the circumstances of individual patients.

“While we cannot comment on individual patients and their treatment due to patient confidentiality, we would invite Ms Sutherland to contact NHS Tayside’s Patient Liaison Response Team.”

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