Medical practitioner’s registration suspended after surgery error

27 Sep 2016

A neurosurgeon’s registration has been suspended for performing spinal surgery at the wrong level and then attempting to cover it up.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) received a complaint in May 2011, alleging that Dr Quentin John Malone, a specialist neurosurgeon, performed spinal surgery on a patient at the incorrect level and then attempted to cover the error by rewriting the operative records.

Following the Board’s decision to investigate in October 2011, the matter was subsequently referred to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (the tribunal) for hearing and determination on 29 January 2013.

On 3 May 2016, after several mediations, the tribunal found that Dr Malone had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct and ordered:

  • he be reprimanded
  • his registration be suspended for 12 months from 30 May 2016, and
  • he pay the Board’s costs amounting to $107,000.

Dr Malone admitted to behaving in a way that constituted professional misconduct, including:

  • negligently performing surgery at the L2/3 level, instead of the L3/4 level, on 6 March 2007
  • failing to advise the patient, and alternatively their general practitioner, that the surgery had been performed at the L2/3 level, and
  • that on an unknown date following surgery, he prepared and wrote a new operation record for the surgery, of which he did not advise the patient or the patient’s general practitioner.

Dr Malone admitted his conduct in preparing and rewriting the operative record had the effect of misleading the hospital, the patient and the patient’s general practitioner about the surgery performed at L2/3 level. He acknowledged that this conduct amounted to improper conduct that is substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.

In mitigation, the tribunal took into account that Dr Malone’s career as a neurosurgeon had spanned some 20 years and that he had not previously been the subject of disciplinary proceedings, he had written to the Board in March 2016 expressing remorse for his conduct and all the parties agreed that the negligence did not point to a generalised deficiency in skill that would lead to a conclusion of incompetence.

The reasons for the tribunal’s decision are published on its website.

 
 
Page reviewed 27/09/2016