Lead Article – November 2021

Lead Article – November 2021

Personality Does Matter

Over the last two months, I have seen two plaintiffs alleging medical negligence against a so-called “first surgeon”.

Both patients had undergone total hip replacements by different surgeons. Let’s call them surgeon A1 and surgeon A2. They had both performed the primary hip replacement in each case.

Both patients complained of ongoing discomfort following the original surgeries and amongst other things, there was the allegation that leg length discrepancies had been created. So great were the alleged leg length discrepancies that both patients sought second opinions and both patients underwent revision operations by surgeons B1 and B2.

It transpired that neither patient had a true leg length discrepancy. Instead, it was an apparent leg length discrepancy and this related to pelvic obliquity, osteoarthritis in the contralateral hip and contralateral knee, and altered gait patterns. Whilst the osteoarthritic degeneration in the contralateral limb could not be addressed easily, the gait patterns could have been quite easily resolved.

Even more unfortunate is that both the operations performed by surgeons B1 and B2 were faulty. Considerable damage was created during the courses of the revision procedures for both patients and from my perspective, both patients ended up being far worse than they might have been had they been left well alone.

This is the rub. Surgeon B1 and surgeon B2 both had marvellous bedside manners. Both had generated trust and affection with their patients and in essence, the patients thought that they “could do no wrong”.

Through misdirection and misunderstanding, both plaintiffs attempted to sue surgeons A1 and A2. Suffice to say, after tens of thousands of dollars, many reports and some clear-headed analysis, both suits failed.

It struck me at the time that maybe the patients should have been suing surgeons B1 andB2, but personalities got in the way.