More than 750,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year, according to Cancer Council.
However, in 2016, one Wollongong doctor was charged with professional misconduct against nine of his patients who had adverse outcomes after treatment for skin cancer.
Now, patients are calling for a legislation change on tighter controls on skin cancer clinics.
The events leading up to 2016
On 8 December 2016, a general practitioner working in skin cancer care was found guilty of professional misconduct before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Nine patients put forward a complaint, which ranged from a failure to explain procedures to disfigurement and even failing to administer sufficient anaesthesia for a procedure.
One patient, who was the first to issue a complaint, saw the practitioner in 2012 for treatment of Bowen's disease on the right side of her nose. He inappropriately recommended and undertook a full-thickness skin graft for repair of the wound. The operation left the patient with a large indentation on her nose. It was later discovered that the patient could have been treated with Vitamin A cream instead.
The following eight patients' complaints featured similar stories of misconduct and demonstrated that the doctor's professionalism was significantly below the expected standard. It was also noted that the doctor suffered from an impairment, and as a result was not competent to practise. Therefore, his registration was cancelled at the 2016 hearing.
What are patients calling for as a result of his misconduct?
After being left with significant scarring, the nine original plaintiffs, along with dozens of new claimants, are now calling for tighter controls on skin cancer clinics and the procedures practitioners are allowed to perform. In April 2018, the state government implemented the NSW Report on the Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Procedures. The nine recommendations hope to strengthen existing regulations in a bid to make undergoing procedures safer for customers.
Under the regulation of registered practitioners, medical professionals must provide patients with proper assessment and discuss other options that might be available – something the aforementioned patient could have benefited from. However, the new legislation does not apply to skin cancer clinics. While the misconduct of skin cancer practitioners is not a widespread occurrence in NSW, the fact this incident happened at all demonstrates that legislation reform is needed.
Have you suffered as a result of medical negligence? You may be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see how we can help you submit a claim.