A judge has ordered a surgeon to pay a patient over €123,000 in compensation after a surgery to fix a back problem left him paralysed from the neck down.
Mr Justice Robert Mangion found that neurosurgeon Antoine Zrinzo had been responsible for the 75 per cent disability suffered by Lawrence Mercieca, who was 56 at the time of the operation in July 2001 at St Luke’s Hospital.
The court heard how Mr Mercieca had gone to the consultant neurological surgeon who certified him as suffering a compression in the cervical spinal cord.
He referred him for an MRI which confirmed the diagnosis and he went under the knife.
Prior to the operation, Mr Mercieca claimed that Mr Zrinzo had told him that the four-hour operation carried no risks but the surgeon denied this in court, insisting that he had explained the routine risks of such surgery.
The court, however, disbelieved the patient, saying that Mr Mercieca knew of the risks he was facing, as evidenced by the apprehension he had before the day.
On the other hand, the court gave weight to a report drawn up by a foreign expert, John Wadley, who concluded that the procedure carried out by Mr Zrinzo was “historical”.
He also established that the choice of the surgery was “negligent”, given the patient’s ailments, and that this was more prone to complications afterwards.
The court also heard how Mr Mercieca had high blood pressure prior to going under the knife and how this was controlled with medication. The situation, however, took a turn for the worse during the procedure, when Mr Mercieca’s blood pressure continued to fall, forcing doctors to give him other medication to reverse the effect of the previous ones.
Mr Zrinzo was not found responsible for the complications that may have been caused by the blood pressure but was criticised over his failure to visit his patient after the operation when both of his legs were paralysed.
Mr Justice Mangion ruled that Mr Zrinzo deviated from a general and approved practice, resulting in a 75 per cent disability for his patient who was paralysed from the neck down.
He therefore ordered Mr Zrinzo and the Director General of the Health Department, as his employer, to jointly pay Mr Mercieca €123,383 in damages, including €5,000 in expenses he incurred to improve his physical condition.
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