A Wellington surgeon has failed in his bid to secure name suppression and overturn a Health and Disability Commissioner's decision against him.
Richard Stubbs had been ordered to pay the widow of a cancer sufferer $5000 and amend his patient information booklet after the commissioner found the couple had not been fully informed about a treatment's potential to fail and the extra costs which could be incurred.
The patient, identified as Mr B, was diagnosed in late 2007 with advanced colon cancer and secondary cancer in the liver and died in early 2009, aged 58.
When diagnosed his life expectancy without treatment was placed at three to six months.
He did not have medical insurance, but after discussion with Professor Stubbs opted to have a potentially life-extending treatment which was only available through the private sector.
In November 2007 a vascular access device was inserted and oncological treatment administered at a cost of $35,000 to $45,000.
Seven months later a review found Mr B's cancer was progressing. He agreed to repeat the treatment at a cost of $18,000-$20,000.
On the morning of his scheduled surgery a scan showed the vascular access device had become blocked.
Prof Stubbs spoke to Mr B about his options which included installing a femoral artery catheter as an alternative way to deliver the treatment for an extra $5000-$7000.
Mr and Mrs B agreed and the treatment went ahead.
Several days later Mrs B wrote to Prof Stubbs saying she and her husband had come away "feeling quite disillusioned" at having to pay so much extra, "especially in a situation which was beyond our control".
Prof Stubbs replied, sympathising with their situation and said he would meet the costs of the CT scan and study (about $1000).
Mr B told the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) that while he had been largely satisfied with his treatment, he had not been informed the device might fail and was alarmed by the "huge extra expense".
The HDC consulted with surgeon Peter Johnston who said Prof Stubbs' consent practice had been "adequate for the situation".
However, he said the information booklet provided by Prof Stubbs could have offered more information on the likelihood of the device malfunctioning, which stands at around 30 per cent.
"Doctors perhaps tend to accept as given the fact that any plastic tube may block, fall out or become infected, but patients may not be aware of this."
The HDC found Mr B was not given adequate information and recommended Prof Stubbs update his information booklet and pay Mrs B $5000 towards the additional treatment costs.
Prof Stubbs appealed to the High Court but Justice Ronald Young last week backed the HDC's decision and declined Prof Stubbs' application for name suppression.
While the HDC had not published his name, many health practitioners who read its decision would be able to identify him, Justice Young said.
Prof Stubbs' call for suppression was based on his concern for his reputation.
But Justice Young said he did not believe Prof Stubbs' failure to keep the patient fully informed of potential costs had any impact on his skill or reputation as a surgeon.