Crippled by a surgeon

By admin
23 July 2010

Does the man who destroyed her life play in the garden with his kids, Mariskca du Plessis (22) wonders.

“Then I think: how can you carry on with your life after you’ve deprived me of so much? How can you play with your kids when I’m missing out on so much?” she says.

Mariskca shakes her head indignantly, pointing at her wheelchair. “He has never even apologised for what he did to me,” she says.

Eight years have passed since controversial orthopaedic surgeon Dr Wynne Lieberthal botched an operation on Mariskca’s back and she still holds out hope he’ll apologise for causing her to be confined to a wheelchair, paralysed below the waist.

She can’t believe Dr Lieberthal is back in the news. He was struck from the medical register in 2004 by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) after he was found guilty on seven charges of unprofessional conduct. He’d performed botched operations on seven people, including Mariskca.

An inquiry committee also found him guilty of negligence and the surgeon, who had made millions in South Africa, had to find work elsewhere.

After an application for his case to be reviewed the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the HPCSA decided he could practise under supervision in the SA public service.

The infamous surgeon worked at the Witbank Hospital until recently and four months ago the board decided he could resume private practice.

Now two other patients have lodged complaints against him with the council and he’s being investigated again. Since the latest complaints he has resigned from Witbank Hospital.

“I can’t believe they allowed him to operate on people again,” Mariskca says. “He doesn’t deserve a second chance.”

She suffered a back injury as a three-year-old in a shooting accident and after developing scoliosis she walked with crutches. “When I was 12 I had to have pins put in my back to my spine straight. But when I was 14 the pins started hurting me.”

“Dr Lieberthal was only supposed to remove the pins from my back. He made a good impression and I trusted him.”

Soon afterwards he operated on Mariskca and when she regained consciousness from the anaesthetic she had no sensation in her legs.

“I got a fright but kept hoping it would get better and I would regain sensation in my legs. Two weeks later I realised I was paralysed. I was hysterical. I never saw Dr Lieberthal again.”

- Dr Lieberthal refused to comment on the allegations against him and referred enquiries to the HPCSA which confirmed two new complaints against the surgeon are being investigated. S

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