Unfortunately, doctors are human and can make mistakes. If another doctor is “a friend” of the first doc, I could imagine that this second doc had confidence that the first doc’s opinion was accurate and there was no reason to question the diagnosis. In this field with such difficult work, your story is not uncommon.
It does sound like you found a good surgeon who questions everything (as it should be) and was able to repair the failed first surgery.
Hardware is not absolutely required. Yes- hardware helps to insure that the fusion will be successful but does guarantee fusion. Not using a plate is not malpractice.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.