Star surgeon's standing scarred by 'malignant' reports

Celebrity orthopedic surgeon Munjed Al Muderis's reputation has been destroyed by irresponsible reporting about alleged negligent practices, a court has heard.

The doctor and medical device inventor has sued Nine for defamation over articles in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers and a 60 Minutes episode from September 2022.

The reports included allegations of negligence and high-pressure sales tactics in relation to his surgical implants for prosthetic limbs.

Dr Al Muderis's barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC told the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday that her client had an unparalleled reputation before Nine claimed he failed to explain the risks of surgery or manage complications.

"You will see ... evidence of a malignant, dishonest and malicious campaign by at least one journalist ... and followed through by others who worked with her," she said in an opening address to the defamation trial.

Ms Chrysanthou said the stories were disgraceful and left readers feeling horror and disgust towards Dr Al Muderis.

The surgeon's titanium implant is hammered down the length of the patient's femur to create a limb attachment point extending through the flesh at the end of an amputated section.

One report included a headline about former paratrooper Mark Urquhart finding maggots in a post-surgery skin fold and claims the surgeon ignored the issue.

Mr Urquhart was paralysed during a training accident and later had his legs amputated to fit Dr Al Muderis's implants in a bid to walk again.

Ms Chrysanthou said text messages between her client and the patient would show Dr Al Muderis responded immediately with treatment advice and the patient's deviation from post-surgery care plans was the cause of the problem.

Medical records would show Mr Urquhart departed hospital early against advice, delayed treatments and stopped taking antibiotics in favour of hemp oil.

“There is only so much doctors can do," Ms Chrysanthou said.

Another veteran Brennan Smith told 60 Minutes that he was left to cut away excess tissue growth at home using a knife.

Ms Chrysanthou told the court emails showed Mr Smith asking if he had to pay for each appointment to remove the tissue.

"He happily did it at home himself ... that's not how it was presented in the broadcast," Ms Chrysanthou said.

The patented implant was better than previous technology, released in the 1990s, as it was more resistant to infection and could be installed in one operation, Ms Chrysanthou told the court.

"There's always the risk of complications given the invasive nature of the surgery ... and this was bluntly put to patients," she  said. 

Nine has filed defences based on the claims being true or protected as public interest journalism.

But Ms Chrysanthou told the court Nine could not claim to be acting in the public interest when it had spread misinformation about medical treatments and had failed to give Dr Al Muderis a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations.

The trial continues on Tuesday, with Nine due to detail its defence to Justice Wendy Abraham after Ms Chrysanthou completes her opening.

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