Monday, December 28, 2009

French Surgery Under Fire?

If you've been in France in recent days you couldn't miss the extensive coverage given to the surgical treatment of Johnny Hallyday. Hallyday, called simply "Johnny" in the French press, is a French phenomenon, an aging rock-star who is the Gallic equivalent of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. No matter that some consider him well past his prime and many mock his obvious efforts to maintain his appearance and status as a bad-boy rocker through plastic surgery and a very young wife, Johnny is still a much-beloved if not notorious celebrity in France. When word reached the press in early December that Hallyday was being transported to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angles in a coma due to complications of surgery, questions were immediately raised about the quality of the work done to repair a herniated disc in his spine. Hallyday was originally operated on by the French "Surgeon of the Stars," Stephane Delajoux, then developed an infection while visiting the US. He was then re-operated on.

It seems as if Dr. Delajoux has had a few instances of post-operative infection among his patients and an inquiry into the quality of his care has been announced by the Ordre des Medecins, the French body that licenses physicians and oversees the quality of medical care. Delajoux, for his own part, has complained that he is the victim of a veritable "lynching."

This would be a minor, major-celebrity story were it not for the finger pointing about the quality of surgery in France launched from within and outside that country. Conservative (that's a generous term for the the sites that have touched on this) blogs in the US have taken note that the "socialist" system often pointed to as the best in the world has to send its pop-stars to the US to get their surgery done.

On the French side, no less that the attorney representing the Ordre des Medicins called Dr. Delajoux "without scruples." The blogs and newspapers in that country are having a veritable field day with the controversy comparing the care Michael Jackson received from his physicians with Dr. Delajoux's work--which incidentally has been praised as life-saving for the French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Unfortunately for Dr. Delajoux, all this attention has driven him into hiding after being attacked in the streets of Paris December 11; Johnny's fans are enthusiastic if nothing else.

A larger debate over the quality of surgery in France has been opened by the incident and that discussion is going forward in the press.

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