Monday, January 31, 2011

HDC decision on complaint against Auckland ETS surgeon Dr Murray MacCormick

In December 2010, we were informed by letter that New Zealand's Health and Disability Commissioner, Anthony Hill, had found in favour of Dr Murray MacCormick.

Here are links to the HDC's decision letter (one link leads to one scanned page, so five pages/links in total):
page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5

Note the commissioner's comment on page 4 about how it would be "unfair" for him to request advice from a neurologist!

And here are links to the earlier letter that Dr MacCormick sent to the HDC when they approached him to hear his side (two links to two scanned pages):
page 1
page 2

The expert chosen to aid the HDC's investigation in the case, Professor Justin Roake, is a vascular surgeon who works at a private practice in Christchurch, New Zealand, that offers Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS).

ETS is, in best practice, supposed to be a last resort treatment for those with primary (lifelong, of unknown cause) hyperhidrosis, when all other treatments have been tried and failed. Even then, it is a surgery that comes with a significant risk of adverse side effects.

The New Zealand ETS patient who this complaint was made on behalf of never actually had primary hyperhidrosis. She was simply suffering short-term (duration two years approx. in middle age) excessive facial sweating, and other problems such as tremors, as side effects of the high dose of the antidepressant AROPAX she was taking in 2004/2005. The failure to realise this on the part of her prescribing GP, Dr Paul Fur, who referred her to Dr MacCormick, is disturbing. And Dr MacCormick's behaviour - in offering this patient ETS and describing it as a "treatment of choice" while acknowledging in his letter to the HDC that AROPAX is "well known to cause sweats in susceptible individuals" - speaks for itself.

The patient feels that her already severe Compensatory Sweating (CS) - a common adverse side effect of ETS - is getting worse: she gets soaked in sweat from her chest to knees daily in warm and hot weather. In addition, she has been experiencing other health issues that may be related to ETS. She has spoken several times of how she has contemplated ending her life because of how the CS has affected everything - her professional life, her social life, her quality of life.

Any New Zealand ETS patients contemplating making a formal complaint about your ETS surgeon, please feel free to reference this complaint in support of your own. The reference number is: C10HDC00679

The outcome of this complaint has been disappointing, to say the least. But it has created a paper trail that other New Zealand ETS patients can reference and use as a resource when making their own complaints.

It is vitally important that ETS patients suffering from the devastating side effects of this elective surgery make formal complaints about their surgeons who did not disclose during pre-surgery consultations the many frequent and less frequent adverse side effects of ETS. Eventually, the number of complaints will add up, and the authorities will be forced to act.

In the mean time, we have the power of the Internet. In the case of this recent complaint, the HDC did not even come close to 1) ensuring that the rights of the patient were upheld, and 2) investigating the complaint fairly - as is the Commissioner's role. However, this does not mean the Kiwi ETS Group has failed. We are still here and we are still one of several voices on the Internet warning those considering ETS surgery that the outcome of ETS surgery is often nothing like what your surgeon will promise you. This irreversible surgery does leave a significant number of patients with serious health issues that have devastating, life-changing effects, such as bradycardia, severe compensatory sweating, ongoing neuropathic pain, erectile dysfunction, and anhidrosis and the associated impaired thermoregulation, to name but a few severe and not uncommon side effects.

The wealth of published medical research on sympathectomies supports this truth, as do the testimonies of the many suffering patients. While those in power might currently choose to look the other way, they cannot silence either these testimonies or the medical research documenting the risks of ETS.