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WHY SHACKLE THE HANDS OF A SKILLED SURGEON?

Last summer, I received the distressing news that I needed bypass surgery. Having enjoyed good health all my life, I found the situation incomprehensible. When I finally accepted the reality, I made a number of inquiries as to the choice of a surgeon. Most of the recommendations -- especially from medical personnel -- were to retain Dr. John Bell-Thomson.

The surgery went well. But two days later, during midight rounds, an alert nurse noticed that my blood pressure had dropped dramatically, indicating internal hemorrhaging. Bell-Thomson was summoned from home and immediately returned to the hospital. Finding every second critical, he performed emergency surgery in my room. He saved my life.

I certainly am not in a position to second-guess the charges that were leveled against Bell-Thomson and sustained by the State Board of Professional Medical Conduct. I do, however, find the one charging him with saying, "I'm the best" somewhat amusing. Maybe he is.

What does bother me is that the hands of a skilled surgeon have been shackled and that, for a year, hundreds of heart patients will not have the benefit of a cardiothoracic surgeon who could very well be the "best."

As a lay person and a grateful former patient, I would think that a more practical penalty would be to allow Bell-Thomson to continue to operate while receiving counseling to improve his people skills. I urge the Administrative Review Board of the Medical Conduct Board to reduce the penalty accordingly.

Oscar Smukler Buffalo

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