A Canberra surgeon, Dr. Richard Hocking, has been accused of medical negligence after an operation on a patient’s knee in Tasmania has been alleged to have gone wrong, leading to the knee being amputated. The orthopaedic surgeon has refuted any suggestion that his surgical technique led to Wayne Ball’s leg amputation and has suggested that it in fact had to do with pre-existing conditions.
The case has highlighted the difficulty in determining fault in the case of alleged medical malpractice.
The allegation, which has been accompanied by legal action against the surgeon and the hospital where the incident took place in Burnie, Tasmania, was that Dr. Hocking failed to carry out an adequate replacement knee operation at the hospital and that the failure led to infection of the knee. The amputation took place two years after the knee operation was performed at North West Regional Hospital in Burnie.
The medical negligence lawsuit is for, at present, unspecified damages to cover medical expenses, specifically a prosthetic knee replacement, lost earnings, lost superannuation and the cost of rehabilitation.
Wayne Ball says that the hospital never told him about Dr Hocking’s previous professional history. Dr Hocking had been suspended by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) previously, but this decision was later overturned by the Board.
In the writ served on the hospital and Dr Hocking, Mr Ball has claimed that the surgeon did not have sufficient skill to perform the operation and the hospital erred in not supervising Dr Hocking, who was acting as a locum at the hospital at the time of the operation.
Mr Ball claimed that he should have been referred to a more specialist facility considering the circumstances of his knee problem and taking into account his age. He says that after the operation, his leg became infected and together with other complications this led to the amputation being carried out.
Dr Hocking is now working at Bundaberg Hospital in Queensland and has no restrictions on his professional capability as a surgeon.
He says that the allegation by Mr Ball has already been investigated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), to which Mr Ball had originally made a complaint. According to Dr Hocking, the AHPRA investigation cleared him of any malpractice and confirmed that he had acted with all due care when he operated on Mr Ball’s knee.
Referring to previous complaints that had led to the original suspension by the MBA, Dr Hocking said that the complaints were part of a deliberate attempt to discredit him by competitors, something which he said was becoming “commonplace”.
In addition to working at Bundaberg Hospital, Dr Hocking has started a new orthopaedics practice up in the city called Coral Coast Orthopaedics.
There is no easy answer to determining who is right in this particular case. Medical negligence claims will not succeed unless it can be proven that negligence indeed has occurred. There is a lot at stake whenever a medical professional or institution has been accused of medical negligence and the innuendo and media attention alone can ruin the reputation of the person who it has been alleged to have been negligent, so it is important to have sufficient evidence to back up a claim before submitting it.
This particular difficult and sensitive case highlights just how important it is to have appropriate legal advice before making a claim of medical negligence. If you believe that you, or a member of you family have suffered from medical incompetence or negligence of any sort and think that you have adequate proof of it, talk to one of our experienced medical negligence lawyers at the Compensation Lawyers. We have offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.