- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

PARIS | French rock legend Johnny Hallyday had a botched operation in France and is now in a medically induced coma in a Los Angeles hospital as he recovers from surgery to fix the damage, his producer said.

Police in Paris were investigating an reported attack on Dr. Stephane Delajoux — the French surgeon who first operated on Mr. Hallyday — as he left a friend’s home overnight, judicial officials said.

Mr. Hallyday, 66, is expected to recover, producer Jean-Claude Camus said.

Mr. Hallyday is France’s biggest rock star, although he is little known outside of Europe. Beyond his music, Belgian-born Mr. Hallyday — whose real name is Jean-Philippe Smet — is best known for his glitz, amorous affairs, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a Frenchness as absolute as Elvis Presley’s Americanness. He had been on a multicity tour in France called “Route 66,” a reference to his age and an homage to the American rock that has inspired his music. The tour is billed as his last.

Dr. Delajoux claimed that one masked man attacked him while another stood by keeping watch, the officials said. The doctor was to go to hospital to have his facial bruises checked out on Saturday, they said.

Mr. Hallyday had an operation overnight Wednesday to Thursday at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to fix lingering back trouble from a Nov. 26 operation in Paris, led by Dr. Delajoux, for a herniated disc.

“After [he] had woken up, the doctors preferred putting him in an artificial coma to prevent him from suffering and getting tired, and thus to make the treatment easier,” Mr. Hallyday’s Web site said.

French daily Le Figaro, citing Mr. Hallyday’s press representatives, reported on its Web site that the singer’s doctors plan to pull him out of the coma early this week. The representatives did not immediately return a message from Associated Press seeking details.

Mr. Hallyday’s press representatives said that lesions from the initial operation required more surgery and that he had also suffered an infection after the first operation.

“The news is very positive, he’s very strong,” the rocker’s son David Hallyday, himself a singer, told France-Info radio as he arrived at the hospital late Friday.

Mr. Camus, speaking Friday on French radio, said the American medical team treating Mr. Hallyday said the rocker had suffered ill-effects from the operation in France and that infection “was attacking his bone marrow.”

“If what I’m being told in the United States is true, this operation was a massacre,” he said on RTL radio. On France-Info, Mr. Camus said: “It seems the Americans fixed things that they found that were very badly done.”

Dr. Delajoux, through a statement from his lawyer, said he was “outraged” by such allegations and insisted that his surgery had “taken place perfectly.”

Mr. Hallyday’s lawyer Virginie Lappe said the singer is not ruling out the possibility of legal action.

As for the reported attack on Dr. Delajoux, his lawyer Herve Temime criticized a “manhunt” against the doctor, although he stopped short of making any claim that the attack and the reportedly flawed surgery were connected.

“Whether there’s a link or not, the manhunt that he’s faced over the last 24 to 48 hours has been despicable,” Mr. Temime said on France-Info. Police officials said Dr. Delajoux reported to have been tracked by paparazzi.

French media have resurrected Dr. Delajoux’s past convictions for medical malpractice, as well as for an insurance fraud that saw him serve a prison term, Agence France-Presse reported.

He was ordered to pay $439,000 in compensation to a patient after an operation left her in a “seriously diminished” condition, and he had to pay another patient for inadequate post-operative care, and a third patient for an “inappropriate surgical intervention,” according to AFP.

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