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Ethics split doctors on new spinal cord surgery procedure

The medical fraternity has backed Dr Atul Goel's work but is divided on the issues of ethics involved in the execution of the technique.

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While the cyber-crime is investigating the maligning emails on Dr Atul Goel’s new technique to perform complex spinal cord surgeries, the medical fraternity has backed his work but is divided on the issues of ethics involved in the execution of the technique.

Dr KE Turel, senior neuro-surgeon, Bombay hospital said: “Dr Goel has presented his technique in a recent neuro-surgery meet in Mumbai. It is a novel idea. But a surgeon needs to pick the patient suitable for this technique cautiously.”

A paper authored by Dr Goel and Dr Shah detailing the new technique and its results appeared in the internationally reputed Journal of Neurosurgery in June.

In the prevalent method for treating a slipped disc, the surgery is performed from the front of the neck, but in Dr Goel’s method the incision is made from the back.

The other difference is that while in the existing method, a spacer (titanium plate) is fixed on the affected part, Dr Goel places, what he calls, a Goel cervical facet. The implant is not available commercially and is made only on Dr Goel’s request.

While Dr Goel has verbally confirmed that he has not taken permission from the hospital’s ethics committee to perform the new technique, the experts say the permission, though not binding, is necessary to ensure the patients’ safety. Dr Sanjay Oak, the dean of KEM hospital said: “We have formed a committee to investigate all the ethical issues in this case.”

Dr TP Lahane, dean of Sir JJ group of hospitals said: “Dr Goel’s work is published in journal, that means he has the approval of the medical fraternity.At preliminary level this looks to be a case of rivalry and mischievous intent.”

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