Hallyday surgeon 'to blame' for back harm

Treatment for French rocker is called 'a massacre' by manager
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A controversial doctor who has been much-consulted by French celebrities was accused yesterday of putting the life of France's favourite rock star at risk.

As Johnny Hallyday, 66, was placed in an induced coma for a second time in a Los Angeles hospital, his manager said that "appalled" American doctors had described as a "massacre" a back operation performed on the veteran rocker in Paris last month.

The doctor who carried out the operation, Stéphane Delajoux, has made a speciality of treating French pop stars and actors. In the narrow, incestuous world of French celebrity, the situation is complicated by the fact that his brother is the romantic partner of Mr Hallyday's actress daughter, Laura Smet.

Mr Hallyday, France's most popular singer for half a century, underwent an emergency second surgery to clear up scars and an infection in the Cedars-Sinai hospital in LA earlier this week. After he was revived from a first artificial coma yesterday, his entourage issued a positive bulletin. However, his condition continues to cause concern and he was placed in another induced coma last night.

Mr Hallyday's long-standing manager and producer, Jean-Claude Camus, told the French radio station RTL yesterday that legal action was possible against the famous-but-controversial surgeon who operated on Mr Hallyday for an aggravated slipped disc in Paris last month.

"We were told it had been a massacre," he said. "The Los Angeles surgeons were appalled. There is talk of legal action."

Dr Delajoux is credited with saving the life of the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg – daughter of the French singer Serge Gainsbourg and British actress Jane Birkin – after she suffered a severe head injury in a waterskiing accident in 2007.

But he has also been successfully sued on several occasions after treatment or operations that went wrong. Dr Delajoux also has a conviction for fraud, after falsifying a medical insurance claim in 2005. He was given a suspended jail sentence.

Olivier Metzner, the lawyer for the main French doctors' association, L'Ordre des Médécins, said yesterday that Dr Delajoux has often been disciplined by the association. Dr Delajoux has been accused, among other things, of failing to apply a "drain" to Mr Hallyday's back to evacuate possible infectious material.

His lawyer, David Koubbi, said yesterday that the Paris operation had been a "complete success" and there had been no need for a drain.