Surgeon denies breaking US law by holding ‘clinic’ to meet patients
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Prominent surgeon Munjed Al Muderis has denied he acted illegally by meeting potential patients at a “clinic” or “gathering” in New York when he did not have a licence to provide medical services in the United States.
Al Muderis is suing The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes over reports published and aired in September 2022. He alleges the reports convey a range of defamatory meanings, including that he negligently performed osseointegration surgery and illegally performed surgery in the US where he is not licensed to practise.
Dr Munjed Al Muderis, and his barrister Sue Chrysanthou, SC, left, and partner Claudia Roberts.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos
Osseointegration involves inserting titanium pins into the residual bone of an amputee, which allows prosthetic limbs to be connected.
Nine, the owner of the media outlets, is seeking to rely on a range of defences, including a new public interest defence, truth, and honest opinion.
During cross-examination in the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday, Dr Matt Collins, KC, acting for the news outlets, asked Al Muderis “whether it was your understanding that it was illegal for you to provide any form of medical services in the United States”.
“I’m not familiar with the American law,” Al Muderis said, adding that he had not performed medical services in the US.
“I didn’t you ask you that, doctor. I asked whether it was your understanding that it was illegal for you to provide medical services in the United States,” Collins said. “Yes,” Al Muderis replied.
In an email shown in court, dated May 9, 2018, Al Muderis’ partner Claudia Roberts, who is the mother of two of his children, told at least 96 potential patients she was “delighted to tell you that Munjed will be running an Osseointegration clinic in New York on 9th of June and has allocated time to meet and examine you”.
Roberts was then Al Muderis’ clinical co-ordinator and identified herself by that title in the email.
The court has heard that the US-based Dr Solon Rosenblatt emailed Roberts, Al Muderis and others days later on May 14, 2018, and said: “Please do NOT call the gathering in New York a clinic.
“Munjed will get into trouble for holding a medical clinic without a medical license. That is a grave offence and could mean serious fines and also revoking of his visa.”
Roberts has previously told the court it was an error to call the event a clinic. She referred to it in a subsequent internal email as a “gathering”. She told potential patients in a second email that “we are very much looking forward to catching up with you”.
Asked on Monday if it was his understanding that it would be illegal to “conduct any form of osseointegration clinic” in the US, Al Muderis said it was “my understanding is you can see people in the United States”.
He added that “I don’t know what you mean by clinic” and asked: “What’s your definition of a clinic? I don’t understand the definition of a clinic, I’m sorry.”
Later, he said: “I don’t understand what’s wrong with calling anything a clinic. A clinic could be a place; a clinic could be a setting. A clinic could be many things.”
Al Muderis said he disagreed with the statement that he had conducted osseointegration clinics in the US, but agreed he had seen many patients in America. He agreed he may have seen 20 patients at the event in New York.
Asked about the Rosenblatt email, he said he didn’t know what he was trying to allude to.
“That’s Dr Rosenblatt’s opinion. I was not doing anything illegal,” Al Muderis said.
“I was seeing people that are seeking advice about [the] future possibility of having osseointegration. It’s [a] general gathering, giving general information, and I build rapport with them.
“The reason of having a one-to-one conversation is to build the rapport … especially if they are planning to fly across the world to meet me.”
He said he looked at people’s legs and X-rays and gave general information.
Earlier on Monday, the court was shown a Facebook message from one of Al Muderis’ former patients, Mark Urquhart, in December 2020, in which Urquhart wrote: “I have shouted your name from the rooftops as my hero for helping me walk again.”
“I have always been positive about you but it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to do that. I just feel totally ignored by you.”
The court heard Urquhart had since had both his implants removed. Al Muderis said he would apologise if he had done something wrong, and he had “worked very hard to help Mr Urquhart”.
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