- Marjan Jahangiri was the first female professor of cardiac surgery in Europe
- Jahangiri was one of two surgeons excluded after a report found a ‘toxic feud’
- In April a dead animal and a decapitated doll was sent anonymously to her home
A leading heart surgeon was sent a dead animal and a decapitated doll in the post as part of a ‘toxic feud’ after she blew the whistle over unsafe care.
Marjan Jahangiri, the first female professor of cardiac surgery in Europe, claimed she had been targeted because of ‘envy at her success’.
The surgeon, who operates on more than 250 cases a year at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London, said a ‘witch hunt’ had led to her suspension from her post.
Professor Marjan Jahangiri was the first female professor of cardiac surgery in Europe
Professor Jahangiri was one of two surgeons excluded earlier this month after an internal report found a ‘toxic feud’ between two rival camps of surgeons had resulted in patient deaths.
The professor claimed the hospital was ‘an environment that appeared to be more interested in cover-ups and petty vendettas than patient welfare’.
Yesterday she asked the High Court for an order to lift her exclusion from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with immediate effect.
Her counsel, Iain Quirk, said that despite being an extremely skilled surgeon, Professor Jahangiri had been treated in the ‘most outrageous’ way and targeted because of the ‘envy at her success’.
He told Mr Justice Nicklin she was excluded earlier this month on ‘the thinnest of grounds’ against the background of the Bewick report, an investigation into patient safety at the hospital.
There were claims of a ‘dark force’ in the troubled heart unit, the court heard. But Mr Quirk cited 14 complaints which had all been dismissed and alleged they were ‘motivated by those who are seeking to harm her reputation and standing, not least because she made whistleblowing disclosures’.
Jahangiri operates around 250 cases a year at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London
In April a package containing a dead animal and a decapitated doll was sent anonymously to Professor Jahangiri’s home address, The Times reported. ‘This was incredibly distressing for me and my family and I still feel traumatised whenever I receive a package,’ the professor said.
It came after she had expressed concern over the competence of her colleagues and added that the ‘vicious behaviour towards me was in retaliation for my actions’.
Mr Quirk said: ‘The inescapable conclusion is that this is a witch hunt – an attempt to pin the blame for the department on her.’
He added that Professor Jahangiri’s trainees – who said they would leave if she was not reinstated – were not being trained properly, the unit was dismantling her research and operations had been cancelled without patients being given a reason. Professor Jahangiri’s practice and reputation had been seriously harmed, the court was told.
‘Exclusion is the worst thing that can happen to a doctor, and for one of the country’s leading professors in cardiac surgery it is disastrous,’ added Mr Quirk.
Professor Marjan Jahangiri’s trainees said they would leave if she was not reinstated
Just two weeks away is enough to allow those complex skills to lapse, which is why she has never had more than two weeks off. Her practice has been decimated.’
Simon Cheetham QC, for the NHS Trust, acknowledged Professor Jahangiri’s clinical skills and what she had contributed in the way of research and training, and said there was no ‘vendetta’ against her. The much bigger issue was the state of the cardiac unit which had a knock-on effect on the Trust’s future as a major trauma centre.
The Bewick report had identified a unit ‘in crisis’ at St George’s but no-one was saying Professor Jahangiri was the source of the problems, he told the judge.
Her exclusion arose from an allegation that she impeded the conduct of a Trust-commissioned review by contacting a witness.
‘We say it was necessary because, if that was the claimant’s behaviour, it was bound to have an impact on the review being carried out,’ said Mr Cheetham.
It was necessary, he added, that the review was completed quickly and efficiently and maintained its integrity. The judge is to give his decision on Tuesday.