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Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Afternoon Show discussing Medical Negligence Law

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Afternoon Show with George Moore discussing Medical Negligence Law 14 July 2020

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

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GM – George Moore /SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers

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GM       All right now – long-time listeners to the Afternoon Program here on 2GB and 4BC will recognise our next guest of course – it’s Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman – She’s been leading the charge in a class action against Australia’s largest cosmetic surgery provider, Cosmetic Institute and as reported earlier this month, almost a thousand women are now suing a group of 10 doctors who performed a number of what they call “one size fits all” breast implant surgeries. Now many Australian women undergo cosmetic procedures every year and unfortunately many suffer complications, pain, deformities, seizures, even death. Well Sally is going to update us on the case and she will take on any questions you might have about legal negligence. So if you have got any questions about legal negligence, get on the phone now. But don’t leave it too late because what often happens with this sort of thing, people call right at the last minute when it’s time to go home. So give us a call now as they say.  131 873 and as always we’ve got that $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who asks the best question of our Legal Matters segment and Tom and Jacob – They’re sitting up straight and they’re waiting to make the award of $100 Westfield voucher. Sally Gleeson’s on the line – she’s a partner of course at Turner Freeman Lawyers in Sydney.  Hello Sally.

SG         Hi hello – good afternoon.

GM       Good afternoon to you. So where are we with this case against the Cosmetic Institute?

SG         Well the case was commenced a little bit over 2 years ago and initially the case was a case about what we alleged to be a negligent system of cosmetic surgery. The cosmetic provider at the time was called “The Cosmetic Institute” – it no longer exists and there were four companies that provided cosmetic surgery to women – mainly however breast augmentation surgery – so enhancing a woman’s breast size.  And the class action initially was commenced against the four now ceased Cosmetic Institute companies – the surgical director at the time – and since then we have joined 11 doctors who were cosmetic doctors who operated and performed surgeries, provided treatments, gave advice and consulted with women at the Cosmetic Institute at that time. So we’ve gone from a class action involving 5 defendants to a class action now involving 16 defendants and we have 12 plaintiffs, women who represent the group and we have an open class – so there is undefined group of women that at the moment we have you know close to a thousand women who have raised their hands and said we would like to be part of this class action.

GM       Okay so how far has this got to go?

SG         Well it’s outside my control – all we can do is do our best – we are at the hands of the legal system – the courts and of course difficult defendants – it’s really – all we can do is push it through – there will be an end – there will be a hearing date – there will be finality to the class action – and all we can do is push it along and ensure that we do our best to represent the women as best as possible and obviously the ultimate aim is compensation for these very deserving women.

GM       All right – when it comes to cosmetic surgery – these are the little clinics especially, people just – I guess they just assume that they are being treated by a professional – is that actually the case?

SG         Well not always – I mean obviously there’s a very very big difference between someone who specialises in cosmetic procedures and who has the qualification, skills and experience to perform cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery should not be laughed at because of the name “cosmetic”. Cosmetic might mean to look better or to improve your appearance aesthetically, but the surgery is very very difficult, complicated invasive surgery that requires exceptional skills, experience and care.  So women often go – the doctor says “I’m a doctor, I can do this” and in Australia they can – it’s not regulated so anyone who’s completed Medical School can theoretically operate on a women and perform invasive surgery whether it be abdominoplasty or breast augmentation or face lift or whatever it is, but in fact there’s a huge difference between a doctor who’s just finished medical school and a plastic surgeon who is the only recognised person to perform the surgery.

GM       I was going to ask you what sort of accreditation do they require, but you seem to be saying that they really don’t is that case?

SG         To perform surgery in Australia?

GM       Yes.

SG         No – at the moment it’s unregulated – so anyone can grab a knife – finish Medical School, grab a knife, open up a clinic and say – I can do whatever you like me to do from a cosmetic point of view.

GM       Yeah.

SG         So it’s quite scary and the issue isn’t about if they can or they can’t do it – the issue is women are not informed – it’s about ensuring that people provide informed consent and know what they are getting themselves into and that – it’s really a matter for the doctor to advise and perform – that’s the  – the essence.

GM       131 873 is the number if you’ve got a question for Sally, now is the moment to hop on the phone 131 873. I talked to a plastic surgeon some years ago Sally and he was very sensitive about the differences between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons. Would you like to give our listeners the rundown on the difference between the two?

SG         Yes – so anyone can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon – the cosmetic surgeon is not a recognised or official term.  Anyone can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon – it’s just a doctor performing cosmetic surgery and as I said, it can be any doctor – someone who’s finished Medical School, a GP, someone who’s undergone any type of training.  A plastic and reconstructed surgeon is someone who has been given the official recognition by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons who practice as plastic and reconstructive surgeons, they can do cosmetic procedures but they also do all the very intensive plastic burns – you know plastics work that involves not only aesthetic and cosmetic but any type of plastics work and these doctors are doctors who after their very initial training undergo a plastics training program which can involve another 10 or 15 years of study.

GM       Yeah yeah.

SG         To become recognised and be given the official hat that – and that is the only official recognition of someone who can practice as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Australia.

GM       Yes – As I understand it, plastic surgery came out of I think it was World War 1 when there were terrible terrible injuries and soldiers and ……………..

SG         Absolutely

GM       Yes it was a matter of trying to reconstruct faces – so that they can live some sort of normal life. Now if you have some sort of breast work done and you’re not happy with it, where is the line between well it didn’t turn out how you thought it would and negligence?

SG         So, there’s a big difference between I go and see someone about having a cosmetic procedure and I’m not quite satisfied about the outcome and what is deemed by the law to be negligent because the standard of surgery or the standard of treatment provides that someone is unreasonable inappropriate – unwarranted. So the law creates thresholds and it’s not enough to say “Listen, I don’t like the way I look“. You need to prove that the service that was provided to you or the treatment was unreasonable according to [peer] opinion and the court has to make a decision as to whether on balance having a look at the expert opinion that’s gathered to the plaintiff versus the expert opinion that’s gathered to the doctor or commissioned or retained for the doctor proves on the balance of probabilities that the service that was provided to someone was unreasonable and that that is what negligence is – the negligence isn’t “I don’t like how I look“, negligence is it is unreasonable and unsatisfactory, sufficient enough to not adhere or meet the standard of reasonable and it’s according to the law.

GM       All right – now you have been looking at this for quite some obviously, do you have any figures on the percentage of women who would be unhappy with the surgery – not necessarily negligent, but unhappy, have you got any figures on that?

SG         Generally speaking, women who approach me are not women who are vain or women who are simply unhappy with the aesthetic outcome because the results doesn’t suit the standards of what it would result should be – I mean these are women who after many years of thinking and mulling over the subject have decided that they want to look better – for example, women who have breastfed or have had children or who have had weight loss or weight gain and these are women who really – it’s not about looking a lot better – it’s about looking a bit better so they can improve their confidence and self-esteem and give themselves some sort of transition to the body that they once had as best as they can – And so these women don’t come to me because their vain or because they are complaining about something that’s not really deserving rather than have surgery that has caused pretty disfiguring outcomes. Doctors who have created inappropriate pockets into which the implants were inserted, the implants are mal-positioned, there’s rippling of the implants, there’s deformity, there’s excessive tissue trauma, there’s haemorrhage, infection, scarring. So these are quite significant injuries and disabilities – it’s not an aesthetic issue necessarily, it’s more than that.

GM       All right. Thank you very very much for your time, we might leave it there for the day.  And I’m sure that the moment we hang up, there will be a full [call board]. Sally Gleeson. Thank you very much Sally and I’ll give our listeners the details – Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence law, asbestos, litigation, superannuation, disability claims, employment law, Wills and Estate and property law and you can get in touch with Sally Gleeson or any of the other lawyers at Turner Freeman – you can go online to turnerfreeman.com.au or you can call them on 13 43 63.

SG         Thank you.