Ian Paterson performed unnecessary operations on more than 1,000 patients over a period of 14 years. He is now serving a 20-year prison sentence, but his horrific tale is being adapted for the small screen.
If you’re as avid a TV watcher as us, you’ll know that any time we see Jed Mercurio’s name attached to something, it’s bound to be the stuff of legend. The Line Of Duty creator has loaned his talents to ITV’s DI Ray, Trigger Point and, lest we forget, the public pandemonium of Bodyguard.
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The surgeon, who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence, was jailed in 2017 for carrying out invasive and altogether unnecessary medical procedures. According to the BBC, his unregulated “cleavage-sparing” mastectomies – in which breast tissue was left behind – meant cancer returned in many of his patients, and some had the operations despite not having the disease.
The developing ITV three-part miniseries is in the process of attaching a writer to the project, which will “tell an Erin Brockovich-style story of Paterson’s atrocities through the eyes of Debbie Douglas”, according to Deadline. Douglas was one of the women who helped run victims’ support Breast Friends.
Douglas was just one of the women who underwent a cleavage-sparing mastectomy by Ian Paterson which left her in “horrendous” pain. She later learned, though, that her cancer was not serious enough to warrant a mastectomy or the seven-month course of chemotherapy she endured.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2020, Douglas said: “I was left with only 50% of my breast to remove a lump that was less than 2cm, I was cut from hip to hip, I had my belly button removed, I had unnecessary chemotherapy – it’s left me completely scarred.”
The majority of Paterson’s victims were women and, in a lot of cases, he lured them into unjustifiable procedures by exaggerating their risk of breast cancer. He then went on to boast about curing them, something which Douglas says contributed to his “God complex”.
The independent inquiry into Paterson’s actions concluded in February 2020 and found that victims were “lied to, deceived and exploited”. Victims “were let down time and time again”, the inquiry goes on, first by him and then by the hospitals where he worked. Then – once the harm they had suffered was known – by healthcare regulators who treated them with disdain. An array of “individuals, organisations and institutions … should have kept patients safe but failed to do so”, it concluded.
While Paterson’s criminal activities will be the crucial context of the upcoming ITV drama, we’re pleased to learn that the series will tell the story from Douglas’ crucial point of view.
It also seems like the ITV drama is coming at a time when there is a renewed collective interest in Paterson’s case. A new ITV documentary Bodies Of Evidence: The Butcher Surgeon will also be airing on ITV on Sunday 12 June. It will include first-hand accounts from Douglas and other victims who will “detail their scarily similar experiences with the consultant and the impact his fear mongering and surgery left on them”, according to the documentary’s synopsis.
With the investigation into Paterson still ongoing, the documentary will also outline some of the fresh evidence that has emerged that claims that some of Paterson’s patients may have died an unnatural death as a result of his actions. The Birmingham and Solihull Coroner’s Service has opened seven inquests and says it is in the middle of a “huge investigation involving hundreds of patients”.
While we’ll certainly be tuning into the documentary this coming weekend, further details about the series are currently unknown. We’ll be sure to update you as soon as we know more.
Images: ITV; Getty