Experts call for legislation changes after series of botched surgeries

Date: Nov 27, 2018

After a NSW gynaecologist was found guilty of performing unnecessary and irreversible operations on patients, experts are now calling for improvements to how the Medical Council of New South Wales handles complaints.

Background of the case

In June of this year, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the disgraced gynaecologist guilty of professional misconduct. This came after nearly 15 years of performing a number of botched surgeries on women around the state. Of the complaints submitted about the doctor, the most serious related to:

  • Failing to identify a 10-week pregnancy when performing an endometrial ablation on a patient – an operation that should never be performed on women who wish to have children.
  • Unnecessarily removing a patient's right ovary and fallopian tube and injuring the other in the process.
  • Performing a hysterectomy despite the patient's complex medical history and wishes for a lesser treatment of a myomectomy to be performed.
  • Informing a patient that she had cervical cancer and undertaking procedures on her postpartum cervix although there was no clinical evidence that cancer was present.

Despite such serious findings, the gynaecologist maintained that he was not guilty and his patients were simply misinformed. However, following the investigation, he resigned from his position leading many to question his innocence. At the hearing, the Tribunal ordered that had the defendant been registered, they would have cancelled his licence anyway.

New findings during the inquiry

While the full Furness Enquiry report is not due until January next year, the lead barrister behind the enquiry has released surprising revelations. She was shocked to learn how complaints were handled by other regulatory bodies and managers.

During his career, the then Medical Board of NSW decided that the gynaecologist needed an urgent performance review. Despite the urgency, the assessment wasn't conducted until almost one year later. More shockingly, the assessors concluded that he was delivering care to the standard reasonably expected of practitioners. When the hospital asked for his history, the board refused, saying they needed the gynaecologist's consent.

Now, experts are calling for all performance assessors to have the full history of complaints and disciplinary action relating to a doctor when conducting assessments. They want legislation to change to allow information sharing between regulatory bodies. This should identify patterns of misconduct early on, and avoid harm going forward. 

The recommendations are currently under review.

If you've sustained injuries as a result of medical negligence, get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners. We can work with you to ensure your claim for compensation has the best chance of success. 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.