MDA: articles

Armstrong and Donovan

Doctors, lawyers and sex, of course

IT'S so obvious that it is difficult to believe no one has embraced the concept before.

Given the medical insurance debate which continues to rage, it also enjoys currency, all of which should help MDA to become one of the ABC's successes of 2002.

Consider this. Programs about lawyers continue to be popular as in The Practice. Programs about doctors also continue to be popular such as All Saints and ER.

Why not, then, take some doctors and some lawyers and unite them beneath the banner of a mythical organisation titled MDA ‚ Medical Defence Australia, described as "a medico-legal organisation that exists to defend doctors and where necessary, compensate patients"?

Brilliant! That way you can have the hospital scenes and doctor-talk that people seem to enjoy, along with courtroom drama and lots of lawyer-talk.

If only there was some way you could involve some hard-working country coppers with hearts of gold and get Eddie McGuire to ask quiz questions at the end of each episode, you'd have a program guaranteed to appeal to 80ĘperĘcent of the audience.

Meanwhile, down at MDA headquarters, Dr Ella Davis, played by Kerry Armstrong, is the doctor who with Happy, played by Shane Bourne, runs MDA.

They are up against Jason Donovan (pictured, with Armstrong) as Richard Savage, a lawyer specialising in malpractice litigation.

Bourne, at least in next Tuesday evening's opening episode, is less than convincing, a case of Shane Bourne playing Shane Bourne rather than a definitively different character, and failing to give his best as a result.

Armstrong, however, turns in a capable performance, as does Donovan as the hard-hearted lawyer. Overall, the first episode augurs well for the rest of the series.

Where there are doctors and lawyers there is sex and soon it is revealed that while Dr Ella Davis may be in control of her professional life, there are dark elements at play in her private life as her domestic partner's sexual appetites are revealed.

In this opening program, a cabaret singer with a promising career sues a female obstetrician for negligence.

The woman's baby dies within hours of being born. She is then prescribed a drug which may have caused her to suffer a heart attack and subsequent brain damage.

Her baby is dead and she is confined to a wheelchair. Surely the doctor is guilty and MDA must settle out of court?

The woman had been told that her unborn child suffered a genetic heart defect and could not survive but she insisted on giving birth regardless.

Dr Ella wants to go to trial, convinced that the obstetrician who is also her best friend, is blameless and that stress caused the mother's heart attack.

But why had the obstetrician, after prescribing the drug by telephone, taken an hour to reach the hospital? Where was she? At a restaurant as she claims or engaged in activities which she would prefer were not made public?

As Dr Ella fights the good fight, her assistant deals with a doctor-versus-doctor legal wrangle, one suing the other for wrongful dismissal.

There are a few wobbles in this first episode but the idea of marrying legal and medical elements should allow MDA to appeal to a wide cross-section of viewers.

It shows promise and is worthy of your attentions.

MDA, ABC, Tuesday, 9.30pm.

By Mike O'Connor
July 18, 2002
The Courier Mail