Medicine: Dead End

To the coroner's jury that had heard eight days of testimony, it was a "gross technical error." To Dr. Jean-Paul Drouin, 50, of Ottawa's Montfort Hospital, it was a "complication." To three of Drouin's surgical patients, it meant slow, painful death.

The operation in question, a modification of one devised in 1912 for controlling incurable metabolic disorders, is chancy at best. It is based on the fact that shortening the digestive tract cuts down on caloric absorption, enabling excessively overweight people to shed pounds regardless of how much they eat. To perform it, the surgeon severs the small intestine near the end...

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