DR KERRYN PHELPS, LAST CHANCE SURGERY
The stakes are high on Seven’s medical documentary Last Chance Surgery. Guy Davis got the prognosis from its host, Dr Kerryn Phelps.
‘ Most of us will never know what it feels like to be faced with one last chance at a life-saving or a life-changing medical procedure,” said Dr Kerryn Phelps, former head of the Australian Medical Association and host of Seven’s new factual medical series Last Chance Surgery.
However, the patients featured on the show know exactly how it feels, and the program presents their stories – and the stories of the surgeons working to help them beat the odds – in an intimate and inspirational way.
Not long out of the operating theatre herself, Dr Phelps took a few minutes to talk about the new program.
All medical shows have something at stake, Dr Phelps, but the stakes certainly seem to be raised in the situations presented on this program.
When we talk about the stakes, I think we’re talking about risky procedures where the odds are stacked against the patients because of the nature of what’s trying to be achieved and because all other options have been exhausted. That’s basically the theme of the show; everything else has been done. The only possibility for these people is a procedure of this nature, which by its defi nition is going to be more risky than others.
It’s a bold move on the part of both the patients and the surgeons, having such important procedures performed under the gaze of the camera.
First of all, let’s talk about the surgeons; they are completely focused. I’ve spent a lot of time in operating theatres myself and the surgeons are absolutely focused on the job at hand. They’re quite unaware of their surroundings. And with the results of their work in the operating theatre there to be seen, they are also constantly judged by their peers and their co-workers. So I don’t think that’s actually an issue for surgeons operating at this level. They are well and truly experienced, and their skills have been tested in the toughest forum.
And for the patients?
When you’re talking about the patients, well, during the surgery they’re under anaesthetic so they’re unaware. But where the show has quite an emotional impact is when the patient is being told about their options and the accompanying risks, then having to make their decision. And then there’s the aftermath of the procedure – some results are spectacularly successful, some are a qualifi ed success and some not so much.
Again, it’s bold of the show to present situations where there may not be a positive outcome.
When you’re talking about the realities of medicine, it doesn’t always involve a happy ending. That’s something that gives this show perspective – if you thought that every case would have a bright and shiny fi nish, that’s something that just wouldn’t be real.
Is that something you hope the show conveys? The fact that medicine doesn’t always provide a happy ending?
It can be the case, but medicine can also off er tremendous hope. That’s the yin and yang of medicine. What you’re aiming for is an improvement or an extension of life or, in the best case scenario, a cure and complete rehabilitation.