Dr. Robert Bendavid was a leading luminary in the hernia surgery field. He was also a valued contributor to research in the field and a respected authority on practically everything related to hernias. Now, tributes are pouring in after Dr. Bendavid passed away recently.

Dr. Bendavid was a prominent surgeon at the Shouldice Hernia Clinic in Ontario. There, he performed thousands of hernia surgeries. What is notable about Shouldice is that the Clinic practices only natural hernia surgeries. Shouldice refuses to use hernia mesh in its surgeries and patients at the Clinic are able to recuperate and heal naturally. Their philosophy is that the complication rate for hernia surgeries is much lower when surgery does not involve mesh. Dr. Bendavid was an opponent of the prevalent use of hernia mesh worldwide and recognized their dangers.

Dr. Bendavid Did Not Believe that Hernia Mesh Should Always Be Used

Dr. Bendavid questioned the use of hernia mesh and disagreed with the industry’s conclusion that mesh is a safe way to perform surgery. He noted the large number of lawsuits and the billions of dollars of damage and believed that these are evidence of the fact that mesh is unsafe. Dr. Bendavid was considered an expert when hernia mesh cases were litigated in court. At the time of his death, he was slated to be an expert witness in numerous product liability lawsuits that were slated to go to trial. Being accepted as an expert witness means that a doctor has passed rigorous tests from courts as to their level of expertise and their credibility.

There are countless articles on hernia mesh that have been written that featured the opinions of Dr. Bendavid about hernia mesh complications. He was often used as a countervoice when others were arguing that hermia mesh is completely safe. He also would cite the percentage of patients who experienced pain after their surgery as evidence of the problems with hernia mesh. He characterized the rate of patients who had complications after mesh surgery as “unacceptably high.” Dr. Bendavid wrote numerous articles about the connection between polypropylene mesh and pain in the patient after the surgery.

In contrast, he cited the statistics from surgeries performed at the Shouldice Clinic, where the rate of prolonged pain in patients was less than one percent. This tracks the over 6,000 patients who have had natural hernia surgery at Shouldice. This surgery center eschews the use of hernia mesh and only performs natural surgeries.

Dr. Bendavid argued that the use of hernia mesh was too widespread.

He did believe that there were certain circumstances that could support the use of hernia mesh, but these were the exception rather than the norm. According to Dr. Bendavid, the “lack of good fascial structures prevents a secure primary repair” would be the only circumstances that would justify the use of polypropylene hernia mesh. Dr. Bendavid did not accept hernia mesh as a standard solution for every case of hernia surgery. Instead, he wanted the decision to use mesh to be tailored to a patient’s particular needs and typically not used as a default solution.

The doctor also argued that doctors were using hernia mesh as a shortcut to learning the proper anatomical way to fix a hernia. He attacked what he characterized as an assumption that, if something was made out of propylene, it had to be safe. Dr. Bendavid also attacked his colleagues for their failure to speak up against hernia mesh and their willingness to accept the viewpoints advanced by the mesh making industry as their own arguments.

The Life of Dr. Robert Bendavid

Dr. Bendavid was born in Morocco and performed surgeries in both Canada and Israel. Professionally, Dr. Bendavid was a past president and a founder of the American Hernia Society. He also authored a journal about hernia surgery that was regularly published online. He also wrote several respected textbooks on hernia repair. He was a strong advocate for patients and a fearless proponent of their rights. He was never afraid to speak his mind even if he was the long voice in the room taking a dissenting viewpoint.

Dr. Bendavid was a prolific writer. He edited three textbooks that dealt with hernia surgery. He authored nearly 40 articles about hernia surgery that were published in medical journals. He was also a frequent presence at industry events and presented at medical conferences approximately 100 times over the course of his career.

Dr. Bendavid’s Colleagues React

His colleagues in the medical community were quick to praise him after he passed away and effusive in their praise of him. Bruce Robinson, who is a patient advocate and was a friend of Dr. Bendavid, said that the doctor was unsurpassed and “few people will ever be on his level.”   Rosenberg noted the many instances in which Dr. Bendavid helped him personally.

Kevin Petersen, a hernia surgeon from Las Vegas, also stated that Dr. Bendavid was unmatched in his understanding of hernia surgeries. Petersen not only noted Dr. Bendavid’s professional expertise, but he also praised his personal warmth and hospitality. When Petersen visited Shouldice, Dr. Bendavid introduced him to the director of the Clinic. The doctor also personally took the visiting Petersen to Niagara Falls and invited him to his home to view his personal library.

Dr. Bendavid’s presence will be missed among the hernia surgical community. Whether one agreed with his opinions or not, Dr. Bendavid contributed to the scientific discussion in the community and his strong principles forced people to at least take note of certain arguments even if it was inconvenient for them or against their interests. Dr. Bendavid was a contributor to the overall level of hernia knowledge and was deeply committed to advancements in safe hernia repair.

At the same time, those in the hernia community who argue that hernia mesh is a dangerous course of treatment when used indiscriminately have lost a powerful advocate. Those who argue that hernia mesh is unsafe are facing an industry that is well entrenched with vested financial interests. Opposing these interests often means arguing with a lonely voice that is not always heeded. Dr. Bendavid had the courage necessary to oppose the industry in a public setting without any regard to any negative blowback he would face. As a result, he brought increasing attention to the growing number of patients who face life-altering consequences from hernia mesh surgeries that went wrong and caused them complications for life.  The hope is that there are more like Dr. Bendavid who are willing to take his place but, until then, his passing takes a valuable voice away from the debate over hernia mesh.