Lead Article – August 2019


How Much Is A Pro Bono Service Worth?
Well, it depends upon which side of the fence you sit. If you are the provider of the pro bono service, there is obviously no financial gain (at least not directly). Conversely, those sitting on the receiving side of the fence can benefit greatly.

two men at a fence

For my entire orthopaedic career, I have provided pro bono services in specific circumstances. At a medicolegal level, I have offered the provision of reports without a fee for plaintiffs in receipt of support from Legal Aid. I had initially asked that any successful plaintiff benefiting from my pro bono provision would subsequently donate a comparable sum from their award to assist future Legal Aid services. I suspect that never happened and of course, there is no way that I could really insist. I therefore simply provide them free of charge with no expectation in the longer term.

money bags

At a surgical level, I have also performed services without a fee. Such a statement does require some explanation. Almost every orthopaedic service does attract a small fee from the Government according to the Commonwealth Medical Benefits Schedule. That is usually a pittance and only a small percentage of a proper surgical fee, but it is something more than nothing. Many of my patients have been financially disadvantaged yet in need of prompt surgical relief. The public waiting list has been excessively long, and almost punishingly so.

Whilst the financial rewards that I receive from these services are little or none, the emotional rewards are enormous. The gratitude expressed by a satisfied patient is amongst the greatest rewards any surgeon can receive. To see a disadvantaged plaintiff also receive due recompense is heart-warming and nourishing.

elderly lady in hospital

As a reader, you should always feel free to approach me for a pro bono service. Worthy cases are never rejected and whilst I still have the time and energy, this is a subset of society that I feel determined to serve.