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Doc 'ignored frantic calls of gastric band woman'

A doctor accused of ignoring frantic calls from a patient who underwent a gastric band operation was found guilty of professional misconduct.

Dr Laszlo Ruscsak (46) threatened to cut off the patient's aftercare when she complained about his aggressive and dismissive behaviour.

Mrs Lucia Dowd of Lucan, Co Dublin, complained the Dublin-based doctor provided no follow-up aftercare when she travelled to Hungary for the operation, which is intended to help patients lose weight.

At one point, Dr Ruscsak sent an email to Mrs Dowd which stated: "I can cancel your aftercare at any time. You have right to sue me at any time (I am not afraid of it LOL)". LOL means 'laugh out loud'.

Mrs Dowd, a relative of Liveline presenter Joe Duffy, described how the consultant anaesthetist ignored her anxious phone calls and provided no follow-up to her €7,000 operation, which was carried out by a different surgeon in Budapest in October 2009.

Dr Ruscsak, who did not attend the Irish Medical Council's hearing yesterday, was found guilty of professional misconduct on a number of counts, including that he disclosed Mrs Dowd's confidential medical and personal information to RTE's Liveline radio programme, and that he failed to provide adequate psychological counselling to Mrs Dowd, who was suffering from depression.

Dr Ruscsak worked out of the now defunct Haven Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in Stillorgan, Dublin.

"He talked the talk, he was a good salesman," Mrs Dowd said of her first consultation.



pushing

Patricia Byrne, a friend who accompanied Mrs Dowd on this consultation, was told by Dr Ruscsak that although she was not obese, she (Byrne) would be an ideal candidate for a gastric band operation to prevent weight gain.

"It was like he was pushing, trying to sell time-share (apartments), when I look back at it now it is ridiculous."

Obesity specialist Prof Donal O'Shea advised the hearing that gastric banding should only be offered to patients when all other measures had been exhausted, which could take two years from the first visit.

The hearing was told that Mrs Dowd decided to go ahead with the operation against her friend's advice, but was "alarmed" with the hospital facilities in Budapest.

A recommendation on what sanction should be imposed against Dr Ruscsak will be passed on by the Fitness to Practice Committee to the Medical Council's board but wasn't disclosed at yesterday's hearing.

aokeeffe@herald.ie