Tuesday, 23 April, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalAustalian surgeon denies ‘botch-up’ in defamation case

Austalian surgeon denies ‘botch-up’ in defamation case

In a defamation trial in Sydney, a high-profile Australian orthopaedic surgeon – who is suing several publications (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald), plus the TV programme 60 Minutes – has been accused of “denying the bleeding obvious”.

Dr Munjed Al Muderis, who pioneered a procedure that involves inserting titanium pins into the residual bone of an amputee, allowing prosthetic limbs to be connected, repeatedly told a lawyer for the media outlets that he does not recall specific interactions with patients, despite pages of evidence.

During cross-examination in court last week, Al Muderis also disputed the allegation that he was inattentive to patients after their surgery.

The doctor is suing the newspapers and current affairs programme over reports published and aired in September 2022. He alleges the reports convey a range of defamatory meanings, including that he negligently performed osseointegration surgery and provided inadequate aftercare.

In response to a December 2014 letter tendered in court and addressed to former patient Anna Rochford that mentions her consultation request for osseointegration services at his clinic, Al Muderis said he could not have offered the services because he didn’t have the skills or experience, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I didn’t have the skills, nor the experience at that particular time, nor the technology available to me at that particular time, to perform osseointegration surgery at that level,” he said.

“I developed the skills and I developed these technologies years later.”

However, Al Muderis’ denial defied the nature of the letter tendered in court, which specifically mentioned the term “osseointegration services”, said Dr Matt Collins, KC, barrister for the media outlets.

“This doctor has, with respect, denied the bleeding obvious in relation to document after document concerning potentially providing (a former patient) with osseointegration services,” Collins said.

The court heard that Rochford, a cancer survivor, underwent a neurectomy with Al Muderis in December 2014.

The then 43-year-old, despite having had her right leg amputated, had an active lifestyle, the court heard, engaging in pilates, mountain climbing, scuba diving, skiing and off-road motorbiking before seeking treatment from Al Muderis to reduce neurological and phantom pain.

After Al Muderis performed the neurectomy, a procedure which removes all or part of a nerve, Rochford was moved to the intensive care unit after waking from the surgery and experiencing pain “unlike she had ever experienced”, Collins said.

The pain was so intense that she was prescribed morphine and valium and given an epidural.

After she went to the ICU, the doctor apparently did not visit her in hospital and only spoke to her on the phone – allegations Al Muderis denied.

The court heard Rochford was left with post-traumatic stress disorder over the incident.

Collins told the court another patient, Habibul Rahiman, complained to Al Muderis after surgery that: “I cannot move, I cannot touch my leg, it’s so painful, even though I’m on two types of painkillers. Why is this happening?”

Al Muderis said he could not recall this interaction.

Collins also accused Al Muderis of being more attentive to patients in the early days of his osseointegration practice, in 2014, which the surgeon denied.

The court heard that Al Muderis believes osseointegration surgery is so new and unique that it can lead general practitioners and other medical professionals, who are not acquainted with the procedure, to misdiagnose infection at the site of the prosthetic limb.

“It’s a technology in its infancy,” Al Muderis told the court. “It will take decades to educate the population of clinicians about what is and is not infected.”

Nine Entertainment Co, owner of the media outlets being sued, is seeking to rely on a range of defences including a new public interest defence – truth and honest opinion.

The trial continues.

 

Sydney Morning Herald article – High-profile surgeon ‘denying the bleeding obvious’, court hears (Open access)

 

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