ROUTINE surgery which led to a North-East woman's death was unnecessary and possibly illegal, a solicitor has told an inquest jury.

The claim was made on the third day of a Middlesbrough inquest into the death of 33-year-old Elaine Basham, from Loftus, east Cleveland.

Miss Basham died ten days after undergoing what should have been a routine operation to remove her tonsils and adenoids at the former North Riding Infirmary, in Middlesbrough,

She developed post-operative complications, resulting in severe haemorrhaging and three cardiac arrests in the space of a few hours.

Despite efforts to save the Down's syndrome sufferer, Miss Basham died in intensive care in The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, on November 15.

Richard Follis, representing the Basham family, questioned whether the surgery was really necessary.

While Miss Basham had larger than normal tonsils and found it difficult to breath through her nose, she did not suffer from consistent bouts of tonsilitis, which was one of the main reasons why adults underwent surgery, said Mr Follis.

The family's solicitor also said the locum registrar, who recommended that Miss Basham should undergo surgery, did not follow the legal rules surrounding patient consent when he got Miss Basham's father, who has since died, to sign the operation consent form.

He said the medical staff decided whether to carry out surgery, rather than family members.

Mr Follis also questioned whether it was wise to operate on Miss Basham when there was growing concern about the reliability of disposable surgical instruments brought in by the Department of Health to reduce the theoretical risks of transmitting vCJD.

Earlier, the jury heard an emotional account from consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon Frank Martin of how staff battled to save Miss Basham's life.

The consultant said he was forced to sew up bleeding tissue after a pair of new, disposable electric diathermy forceps normally used to stop the flow of blood, failed to work properly.

He told the jury: "I have reflected over very many hours since that time on the events of that night.

"I still continue to do so in the morning when I walk my dog. I can't see what more I could have done."

The inquest continues.