Sunday, September 4, 2011

Update on second complaint made against Auckland ETS surgeon Dr Murray MacCormick

As discussed in this post from April this year, the second complaint in a 12-month period against Dr Murray MacCormick was made earlier this year by a patient who had ETS for facial blushing.

The patient's complaint focused on the lack of information they were given on the risks of ETS during their sole ten-minute consultation with Dr MacCormick, and the impact the side effects they developed post-ETS (such as severe CS, inability to sweat on the head and face, insomnia, and reduced exercise capacity) have on their daily life and quality of life.

During the Health and Disability Commissioner's (HDC) short investigation into the patient's complaint, Dr MacCormick refuted, via a letter, the patient's assertion that their consultation with Dr MacCormick lasted only ten minutes and that the only potential side effect of ETS mentioned by Dr MacCormick during this consultation was Horner's Syndrome. Dr MacCormick also stated in his letter to the HDC that of all the health issues the patient has experienced since having ETS, "only a few would be a likely result of sympathectomy."

Dr MacCormick also wrote in his letter to the HDC:
"As is clear from the files, I readily accept that this intervention was poorly advised, and patient selection on my part was inappropriate, something which I recognised in retrospect."

It is not clear what exactly in the patient's files Dr MacCormick might be referring to but he does appear to be freely admitting that he should never have performed ETS on the patient.

After hearing Dr MacCormick's version of events in relation to this patient's ETS consultation, surgery, and resulting side effects, the HDC decided to take no further action on the complaint.

From the HDC's final decision letter to the patient:

"It is clear you had an unfortuante outcome to ETS surgery and Dr MacCormick "accepts that this intervention was poorly advised".

"While I do not doubt that this outcome has caused you a great deal of anxiety, I must take into account the fact that your surgery took place over a decade ago. Given he amount of time that has elapsed I do not feel it would be practicable for me examine your complaint further. Further, ETS surgery techniques have changed considerably over the past decade and I do not feel it would be fair for me to assess the care Dr MacCormick provided to you based on current ETS knowledge."

The HDC's assertion in this paragraph would appear to expose bias or ignorance - the techniques used for ETS have not changed considerably or even moderately since 2001. There was a significant change in ETS surgery technique in the 1980s, when it went from being an open procedure involving a long hospital stay to an endoscopic procedure that can be done as day surgery, but there have not been any major changes in how the surgery has been performed since then. (Though there has been much internal debate among ETS surgeons on which levels of the thoracic chain should be operated on, such as T2 + T3, T2 only, or T4 only, but this debate does not involve changes in surgical technique.)

If any NZ ETS patients wish to make a complaint against Dr Murray MacCormick, you are welcome to reference this most recent complaint in support of your own, the HDC reference code for which is:


In addition, you are also welcome to reference the earlier complaint, made in 2010, in support of your own, the HDC reference code for which is:


Readers can refer to all posts on this blog labelled 'Dr Murray MacCormick' to read the background on the 2010 complaint made against him by a patient who had ETS for wrongly diagnosed hyperhidrosis.


  1. There surgical technique was never questioned in this complaint, so whether the surgical technique changed much or didn't is not, should not be a deterrent in launching an investigation - because by he admission of the surgeon the fault lies with patient selection! So how can he public be assured that the patient selection method has improved in the 10 years? Taking into consideration the other complaint against this surgeon, where patient selection was also an issue, one would have to conclude that the surgeon repeatedly makes the same mistake.
    The HDC owes the public an investigation of this repeat offender.Currently, all they are doing is looking for excuses for him and his actions that are inexcusable.

  2. I think those are fair observations you make.

    I agree that the HDC was just looking for an excuse to close this complaint, and time having past was simply an obvious excuse. And for the HDC to state, however irrelevantly, that ETS techniques have changed significantly in the past decade, shows their lack of even basic knowledge of the surgery. I would even go so far as to say that it shows arrogance on the part of the HDC, in thinking they can fob patients off with bare-faced lies.

    Despite the poor response from the HDC to the recent complaints about Dr MacCormick, I continue to hope that if more New Zealand ETS patients who have had bad outcomes speak up, the HDC will eventually realise that they can't go on making excuses for surgeons who fail to fully inform their patients.