herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Gynaecologist facing allegations he botched four women's surgeries

Inquiry

A WOMAN developed life-threatening complications following a hysterectomy while another woman was forced to have a colostomy to allow her injuries to heal following the same procedure, a medical inquiry has been told.

Two other women also suffered "significant" blood loss as a result of hysterectomies all carried out by consultant gynaecologist Peter Van Geene at the Aut Even private hospital in Kilkenny.

A fitness-to-practise medical inquiry opened yesterday with allegations of poor professional performance brought against Mr Van Geene arising from four vaginal hysterectomies performed by him at the hospital between April 2009 and October 2011.

Complications

All four women were left with complications, with one developing life-threatening pulmonary oedema, or fluid on the lungs.

Three of the women have asked not to be identified while a fourth, Helen Cruise, has waived her anonymity and will give evidence today.

Chief executive of Aut Even hospital, Annette Jolly, told the Medical Council hearing that Mr Van Geene had been a consultant gynaecologist at the private facility from 2006 until 2011.

One of the women, identified as 'Patient A', told the inquiry that she had attended Mr Van Geene in 2008 because of persistent bleeding, which began about four years after menopause.

At the time, her husband was gravely ill with a grade-three brain tumour and he was given two years to live - though he went on to survive for six years and was frequently hospitalised.

She believed the bleeding related to the stress of this, adding: "It was taking a lot out of me."

The woman sought help from a GP, who referred her to Mr Van Geene, whom she first saw in 2008. An examination revealed "nothing unusual" and Mr Van Geene put the patient on a course of hormone replacement therapy but it made "no difference", Patient A told the hearing.

On March 12, 2009 she went to see him again and Mr Van Geene told her that the only solution to the bleeding was a hysterectomy.

However, concerned that an abdominal hysterectomy would leave her unable to drive for six weeks - which would be difficult because of her husband's ill health - she asked him to perform it vaginally.

Patient A explained that she knew about this option due to a "medical book" she had at home, but later claimed under cross-examination by Eugene Gleeson SC for Mr Van Geene, that Mr Van Geene had not properly laid out the risks of bleeding, infection or possible bowel damage to her.

"If I'd known what would've happened, I wouldn't have had it done, as you could imagine," she told the hearing.

She had the procedure carried out, but 48 hours later she developed a "repulsive" brown discharge.

heal

This did not resolve and eventually she sought a second opinion. It was discovered that she had a fistula or hole in the vaginal wall.

She had further medical treatment, and in December 2012 a colostomy was performed by colorectal surgeon Professor Des Winter to give the fistula a chance to heal.

"To be fair," the patient told the hearing, Professor Winter had told her that the fistula "could have happened at any time".

However, she said she knew it was a result of the hysterectomy as that was when the discharge started and she had "no problems before that", she said.

Six years on from her original procedure, the colostomy is due to be reversed this Friday, the patient revealed, but said the doctor had informed that the procedure is "not going to be easy".

The Medical Council hearing continues today.

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