'Did He Save Lives? A Surgeon's Story'

by David Sellu

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David Sellu was a surgeon with a distinguished record extending over forty years.

In 2010, a patient died under his care in a private hospital. There followed a sequence of extraordinary events that led to David being prosecuted and convicted for the patient's death and sent to prison. His licence to practise medicine was suspended, his career cut short. Events that took place later showed that this was an unfair trial with tinges of racism, and he won an appeal against his conviction and is now a free man. But the damage had already been done.

This book tells his extraordinary story for the first time, in his own words.

In February 2010 Consultant Colorectal Surgeon David Sellu operated on a patient with a perforated bowel. Despite David’s efforts, the patient died two days later.
David was devastated at the death of his patient.

‪There followed a sequence of extraordinary events that led to David being tried at the Old Bailey and convicted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter. He served 15 months in prison and was eventually released on licence until the remainder of the two-and-a-half year sentence expired.

Friends and colleagues up and down the country, as well as David’s former patients, were appalled at what has happened and the bizarre chain of events which led to a situation turning into a criminal case. This sad case was complex and multifactorial and it is extraordinarily unjust that one individual, the surgeon, was singled out to take blame for the whole chain of events, over much of which he had no control whatsoever.

David had a 40-year unblemished career leading up to this case. The thousands of lives he had saved as a general and cancer surgeon are testimony to his skills. It is our view the verdict was wrong and the sentence unnecessarily harsh. The shock waves caused by the conviction of a senior surgeon with a previously distinguished career have led more members of the medical profession to practise defensive medicine. This means that patients who are considered high risk (especially when it comes to operations) may not get the choices they deserve. This could have a huge impact on patient care in the future as our population ages and their health needs become more complex.

The environment in which David worked is now coming under scrutiny. A recent CHPI report highlighted the number of patient safety incidents in Private Hospitals.


While never forgetting the tragic loss of a patient, there is a strong and genuine groundswell of opinion amongst many (including doctors, nurses and patients who have been under David’s care) that a conscientious, dedicated, kind and competent surgeon has been hounded and humiliated and is now serving time for something that should never even have been considered as a crime.

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