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Sally Gleeson discussing cosmetic surgery on 2GB - 7 May 2019

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing cosmetic surgery on 7 May 2019

Tuesday, 7 May 2019 

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CS– Chris Smith / Sally Gleeson –   C1,2,3, etc – Callers 

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CS       You might remember that back in 2017 the owner of a beauty salon in Sydney died while undergoing a breast implant. Well late last week the nurse involved pleaded guilty to recklessly administering anaesthetic that endangered life and for lying to police and as it turned out she wasn’t’ registered in Australia and had never administered anaesthetic before. Now the nurse has agreed to give evidence at the manslaughter trial of the doctor involved saying she was simply obeying the doctor’s orders. This case raises a lot of questions about medical negligence, for example whose responsible for what in a medical procedure, how to check whether someone has the right qualifications, how do you go about that and the consequences of course for medical professionals who act negligently and that’s what we will talk about in our legal matters segment today but if there is something not necessarily based on this but based on medical negligence and you would like to have a conversation with our expert today, the number is 131873. I also have a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to one of those callers as well. Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, employment law, wills and estates and also property law. Sally Gleeson is a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office and specialises in medical negligence litigation. Sally thank you very much for coming in again.

SG      Thanks Chris.

CS       So many cases of late on this line of whose responsible for what and things going wrong especially when it comes to enhancement procedures. Just focusing on the botched breast implant case itself, it was later found that the nurse who had administered the anaesthetic wasn’t registered and had never administered anaesthetic before. Should the doctor in charge of the breast implant had known that?

SG      Well the whole point of seeing a doctor is that you think the doctor is qualified and you think the doctor knows what he or she is doing. In this case there is obviously facts that we are unaware of but the nurse who administered the local anaesthetic, that was necessary for this breast enhancement or breast filler procedure was unregistered and her boss Gene Huang who was 35 at the time passed away in September 2017. So who said what and who did what is obviously unknown because Ms Huang is tragically not around to tell us but this ties in very closely with the class action that we have lodged in the Supreme Court and this whole area of cosmetic surgery that is unregulated in Australia at the moment and there is a huge push by many groups to regulate the area through parliament.

CS       Because this didn’t happen, this particular incident didn’t happen in a two horse town somewhere in the midwest of America, it happened less than 200 metres from the CBD of Sydney.

SG       Chris it is happening everywhere and that’s the problem, so there has to be some sort of enforcement of legislation which regulates this area. At the moment we go and see a doctor and we expect that that doctor has the requisite level of training and experience to do the procedure that you are asking to be done, so in the eyes of a consumer you and I, a surgeon for example, cosmetic surgeon, has an assumed level of training and experience and that goes unquestioned, you don’t ask but there are big differences between the credentials that constitute a specialist plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon, in fact a cosmetic surgeon does not have to be a surgeon at all.

CS       That is ridiculous.

SG       You can finish medical school and you can be ready to go and you can operate and you can do these invasive complex cosmetic surgical procedures, Im talking not breast fillers or botox, I’m talking breast augmentation, breast lifts, breast reductions, rhinoplasties, so correction of the nose, various types of procedures that involve cuts and complex and invasive and under the muscle things that only a surgeon, a properly qualified surgeon should do.

CS       So how did the regulations or lack of regulations fly under the radar in this industry?

SG       Because people have been able to finish medical school and decide that cosmetic surgery by virtue of the name cosmetic doesn’t carry with it that level of seriousness.

CS       The connotation is minor surgery.

SG       It implies aesthetic and therefore not serious, but in fact it’s serious and in fact Ms Huang’s case and the class action where several of my clients, we’ve got hundreds of women, some of them have gone in expected that a qualified surgeon was operating on them and what ended up happening is that they were operated on in facilities that were unlicensed, when I say unlicensed I mean cannot administer a general anaesthetic and so these women were undergoing very invasive procedures under a local anaesthetic and what happened in Ms Huang’s case is that the procedure is painful and rather than being given a general anaesthetic where she cannot feel pain, she was given large and massive doses of local anaesthetic to numb the area and invariably when you do that you tip someone into danger.

CS       131873 the telephone number, some free legal advice in our legal matters segment brought to you by Turner Freeman. What about administering anaesthetic. We’ve got a dual problem, we have one problem in that the doctor who’s doing the work in some cases is not qualified and then the person who is putting you to sleep whose dealing with a life and death procedure as well is not qualified. Are you coming across the same thing there?

SG       This is exactly what we are coming across and this is exactly what we are addressing in this class action. You are dealing with facilities that are unlicensed to give a general anaesthetic, you are dealing with surgeons which we allege are not trained, not qualified. It’s a recipe for disaster, the setup is bound to fail and you have women who are put on the table and given large doses of local anaesthetic and sedation to numb the area, they are being tipped into deep sedation and this has all been investigated. They end up being put in a position where they are not properly ventilated and you can only imagine undergoing a general anaesthetic where you are not properly ventilated and where women are being tipped into local anaesthetic toxicity suffering cardiac arrest, seizures and Ms Huang passed away. This is not an uncommon case so the whole setup is a recipe for disaster and never ever assume that cosmetic means not very important.  It means potentially someone passing away because of these risks.

CS       What about if I might have listeners who have been through similar medical procedures, cosmetic surgery and they discover that the doctor didn’t have the qualifications or the anaesthetist didn’t have a qualifications either, even if something didn’t go wrong can they claim medical negligence or what should they do?

SG       Number one, a doctor who doesn’t have the qualifications must disclose that. You have to say to your patient listen this is what I am able to do, this is what I think I can and can’t do and this goes beyond the scope of what I think I can do. A patient has to give informed consent. I am rarely finding that nothing goes wrong, what I’m finding is that patients experience pain during the surgery, they move, the procedure isn’t executed properly because when a patient moves during surgery a surgeon can’t focus properly on the surgery and what unfortunately happens is that the outcome of the surgery is less than ideal, so patients are being disfigured and patients have an outcome that needs to be rectified by a recognised plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

CS       Ok, your class action is against a company called the Cosmetic Institute. Where is it up to at this stage? And surely the Cosmetic Institute is not operating.

SG       The Cosmetic Institute no longer operates, they have sold their business to another entity. It’s not to say that people who were previously working for the Cosmetic Institute no longer operate. You are always going to have practitioners and doctors operating. The class action is managed in Court and it is proceeding smoothly. We have hundreds of women who are now part of the class action and the enquiries grow and the numbers grow by the week. It’s an action that is now advertised through social media and it is giving women the opportunity who have suffered at the hands of what we allege was poor cosmetic surgery offered at the risk of their health and safety, the opportunity to claim compensation.

CS       So clearly laws need to be changed as a result of this major case that Turner Freeman is handling. Laws needs to be changed. Do those laws need to be changed at a state and territory level or at a federal level?

SG       They have to be changed at a federal level, they have to encompass all the states. Whatever you do whatever you regulate and however you change, it falls on the shoulders of the surgeon. They have a duty of care and they must discharge their obligations.

CS       Ok I’ve got some questions. I’ve got a $100 Westfield voucher, I want to get to your calls on 131873. Ill do that after a break. Sally Gleeson in the chair ready to take your calls in our Turner Freeman legal matter segment. 131873 medical negligence. Jim you’ve got a story about chemicals. Go right ahead Sally’s listening.

C1       Hi Sally,

SG      Hi Jim

C1       I have been in the rural fire service for more than 30 years and the CSIRO put out a report a couple of years ago about the fire retardant stuff they used in our protective clothing which is called….I can’t think of the name. It had formaldehyde in it. Since then I’ve developed leukemia.  Have I got any comeback on the rural fire service or what?

SG      So even though I am a medical negligence lawyer I do know a little about other areas of law because I have practiced in them. So what you are describing is something that you developed during the course of your employment as a firefighter?

C1       Yes that’s right.

SG      Ok. And are you still working?

C1       Yes

SG      And have you, obviously your employer is on notice about this and they know exactly what has happened to you and they are aware of your health?

C1       I am self employed.

SG      Self employed. So it’s all about the connection Jim and just like any case whether it is medical negligence or a car accident claim or a workers compensation claim, you have to prove the connection between what you’re suffering from and your work and that your employer breached his or her duty in not protecting you from contracting this condition. So it is not an area that I am familiar with, it’s not an area that I know much about but it is certainly something that my firm through our lawyers, we have partners who practice in all sorts of area of law, would be very happy to help you and look into it for you so if you pass on your details, Ill have someone contact you and make sure that we take care of you.

CS       All the very best to you Jim.

C1       No problem. Thank you.

SG      No problem Jim.

CS       Stay there Jim, we will put you through to Hansel and we will exchange some numbers and see that you are taken care of and hopefully there is some evidence that can be gathered to support your case so that things work out well for you. Jimmy go right ahead, Sally Gleeson’s listening.

C2       Yeah hi Sally.

SG      Hi Jimmy

C2       I heard you talking about class actions and most of us listening have a vague idea of what this means, it is a whole bunch of people going after somebody but my question is, what is the purpose of the class action? Is it simply there to mean that for individuals they get through the court process quicker or it’s easier for the judge or does it actually give better outcomes then they would have got on their own if they go with a class action thing?

SG      So the class action is a method by which people, a whole heap of people or a large group of people who have a common interest in the one set of proceedings, can litigate their case without clogging the courts and efficiently and in a cost effective manner. So you always have to have people representing the class action and they are the Plaintiffs and you have to have a minimum of 7 people who can represent the class action as a whole. So what happens is that you choose your Plaintiffs, people who represent the class action and they bring the class action on behalf of a whole heap of people who have a common interest in fact and law and the cases of those 5 or 7 or 10 people who represent the class action are litigated, decided and then the individual group members have their cases decided depending on the outcome of the initial question of law and fact that’s decided.  So it is efficiency, it’s cost effectiveness and it helps people who don’t want to expose themselves to the risk and cost of litigating, to hide underneath the auspices of a class action and rely on the Plaintiffs who are bringing the class action to represent them.

C2       Wonderful, thank you, I learnt something I didn’t know.

SG      No worries Jimmy.

CS       And I’ve got a $100 for you too Jimmy.

C2       Thank you Chris.

CS       A $100 voucher for Westfield, that’s all yours. Well done. It’s a good question, I’m glad that you asked it, stay on the line and we will get the $100 voucher to you. Just going back on your suit against the Cosmetic Institute. You told us that they had packed up and sold to another firm, who therefore ends up paying the compensation to these victims?

SG      So the business sold up, the companies haven’t packed up shut down closed, they are in liquidation and as long as they are in liquidation you can obtain leave which we did to proceed against them, so the insurer is ultimately the one that pays.

CS       So there is evidence of an insurer that looked after them whilst they were trading.

SG      Several. So the insurers who are indemnifying or hoping to indemnify or whether they do or don’t is a different question, but the insurers who theoretically should indemnify the companies, and obviously we are also suing the surgical director who we say was the divisor of the system , the person who crafted and manufactured the system and his insurer is on board and it’s going as planned in court and progressing quite well.

CS       Is it too late for others to come forward and join the class action?

SG      Not too late at all.  So the class action is an open class action, it is not a closed class action, registrations haven’t closed and in fact now is the prime time to join.

CS       So they could call Turner Freeman on 134363 that number is 134363. Ask for you Sally?

SG      Correct.

CS       Sally Gleeson 134363 through Turner Freeman. You could also, Etita, who have I got on the phone?

C3       Yes.

CS       You want to join the class action?

C3       Yes.

CS       So the best way to do it is to phone 134363 or even better now that the segment is almost finished, we will put you in contact with Sally right here straight after I get to an ad break.

C3       That’s awesome, thank you.

CS       Stay right there, don’t put your phone down. Sally Gleeson, thank you very much for your time.

SG      Thanks Chris.

CS       We will put our caller through to Sally right now.