Dr. Atiq Durrani: Deposition from fugitive Mason spine surgeon read during malpractice trial

Durrani denies main claims in suit

CINCINNATI – James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell they are not. And it wasn't a TV commercial for Sprint. Or even Court TV.

But attorneys Michael Lyon and Eric Deters did seem to hold the courtroom's attention in a somewhat dramatic reading at the first trial of hundreds of malpractice suits against indicted Mason spine surgeon Dr. Atiq Durrani on Friday.

Two years before Durrani fled the country last month, he gave a deposition to Deters on Nov. 29, 2011. In Durrani's absence, the attorneys acted out the testimony Friday with defense attorney Lyon sitting in the witness chair at the front of the room and reading the doctor's answers to questions from Deters, who sat at the plaintiff's table and gave an animated representation of himself.

Durrani denied the three main claims in the suit by Crystal Pierce, a 33-year-old mother of two, that:

> A second surgery Durrani performed on Pierce on Jan. 30, 2009, was unnecessary.

> Durrani scared Pierce into having the second surgery by telling her she would become paralyzed if she didn't.

> Durrani botched the second surgery by malpositioning screws in Pierce's spine, causing her severe pain and permanent injury.

Pierce said Durrani's first surgery on Jan. 28, 2009 relieved much of her pain, but Durrani insisted on a second surgery two days later.

In his deposition, Durrani said he told her the second surgery was needed to restore "lost function" in her right hand.

DETERS: And it could have gotten worse and she was at risk of being paralyzed?

DURRANI: No, not being paralyzed.

DETERS: OK. Risk of being what?

DURRANI: Risk of losing the function, the grip strength in the right hand even more.

DETERS: Let's play that all the way out. What is the worst thing that could have happened to her if she didn't have those surgeries that you gave her?

DURRANI: She would have lost the use of her right hand.

DETERS: And that's all?

DURRANI: That's all.

DETERS: She wouldn't have been paralyzed?

DURRANI: No.

As for allegations that he botched the surgery, Durrani acknowledged that one of the tiny five-millimeter screws had "backed out" and come loose, but he said that wasn't uncommon in spine surgery and argued that was not causing Pierce's neck pain.

Durrani also cited a report from Dr. Paul Cohen of Mayfield Clinic, who did spine surgery on Pierce before and after Durrani did, that agreed.

Pierce had Cohen operate on Oct. 6, 2009, to remove all the screws and plates that Durrani had implanted some eight months earlier.

DURRANI: Have you seen Dr. Cohen's own preoperative report that he counseled the patient?

DETERS: Yes.

DURRANI: OK. Did you see in that note that he told her that he does not feel that the screw is the cause of her problem and that she may get absolutely no relief from it?

DETERS: OK.

DURRANI: And he said the patient still wanted to go ahead, even despite knowing that this may -- he says it may do nothing for her?

DETERS: All right.

But that wasn't the end of the discussion. Deters pointed out that Pierce said she got some from relief after the hardware was removed.

DETERS: Now, did you know that the pain, according to her, was reduced, and by 15 days later, Oct. 21, 2009, she was off the pain meds?

DURRANI: I - that's her - that's her statement. I'm not aware of it.

DETERS: Can you explain that?

DURRANI: I can not.

Later in the deposition, Deters challenged Durrani on the same point, only different screws.

Deters cited a letter from Cohen on Sept. 17, 2009,  in which Cohen says he reviewed a CT myelogram and found  midline screws protruding into the spinal canal sac.

DETERS: He (Cohen) continues, ‘It is certainly possible that some of her pain is from the irritation of the dura from the protruding screws.’

DURRANI: Uh-huh.

DETERS: You disagree with that?

DURRANI: That is his opinion.

Another spine surgeon, Dr. Keith Wilkey of St. Louis, testified Thursday that Durrani "malpositioned" five plates and at least 10 screws in the second operation, causing pressure around Pierce's spinal cord and leading to pain and permanent injury.

Final arguments will be held Monday and then jury deliberation will begin.

Pierce’s suit is the first of 175 filed by Deters to go to trial. Durrani patients claim their surgeries were unnecessary and most contend Durrani's surgery made their conditions worse.

RELATED: Read Pierce’s lawsuit

In a 36-count indictment, the government has charged Durrani with performing unnecessary surgeries and billing insurers millions of dollars for fraudulent services. Ohio and Kentucky have suspended Durrani's licenses.

RELATED: Read the indictment.

Durrani professed his innocence in an exclusive interview with WCPO's Tom McKee last August.

RELATED: Watch McKee's entire interview with Durrani.

Deters said he plans to file another 230 suits by the end of February.

Durrani's criminal trial is scheduled to begin in August.

The federal charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to 125 years. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any proceeds Durrani received from his alleged scheme.

Durrani owns a private

practice called the Centers for Advanced Spine Technologies (CAST) with offices in Evendale and Florence and most recently performed surgeries at JourneyLite in Evendale, where he is part owner.

Between 2007 and 2013, Durrani performed surgery at West Chester Hospital UC Health, Children's Hospital, Good Samaritan, Christ and Deaconess, but he no longer has privileges at any of those hospitals, the indictment says.

Deters has sued Children's Hospital on behalf of more than 120 patients, claiming the hospital covered up Durrani’s “incompetence and negligence,” failed to report that he had been fired or resigned in lieu of firing, and paid for settling a lawsuit against him.

Deters’ suit says his clients had surgery from Durrani at West Chester  or Journey Lite after Durrani had left Children’s in 2008. It alleges that Children’s withheld “truthful and accurate information” about Durrani and the plaintiffs never would have accepted Durrani’s treatment if they had known his history.

RELATED: Read Deters' suit against Children's Hospital.

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