The Health and Disability Commissioner has recommended that the Medical Council consider reviewing the competency of a surgeon after surgery led to the patient becoming paralysed.

The patient received spinal surgery due to leg and back problems. The surgery involved fusing the spine by inserting screws.

During the operation the machine used to help locate where screws should be inserted did not work properly. The surgeon used manual techniques to help decide where to place the screws.

After the surgery the patient experienced ongoing pain. It was discovered that one of the screws was placed incorrectly. The patient underwent three further surgeries to correct the screw placement and manage issues arising from the surgery.

As a result of the incorrect screw placement and resulting issues, the patient’s lower body became paralysed.

The Commissioner held that due to the misplacement of the screws and the consequences, that the surgeon breached the patient’s right to be provided services with reasonable care and skill.

The Commissioner recommended that the Medical Council consider reviewing the surgeon’s competence, that the surgeon report back to the Commissioner on changes he has made to his practice after discussions with colleagues, and to provide an apology to the patient and her family.

It is important that medical practitioners consistently provide service to a high standard. Failure to do so may result in negative health outcomes that permanently impact patient’s lives, and potentially see the practitioner facing disciplinary consequences.

If there are concerns that you have not been provided services by a medical practitioner with reasonable care and skill, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

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