Wednesday 29 March 2017

Doctor is guilty of two performance claims but cleared of 13

Peter Van Geene
Peter Van Geene

Sam Griffin

A gynaecologist who faced 15 allegations of poor professional performance is likely to avoid serious sanction after he was found guilty of just two of the complaints by a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry.

Four former patients of Dr Peter Van Geene had made the claims against the consultant gynaecologist following hysterectomy procedures he performed on them while working in the Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny between April 2009 and October 2011.

The inquiry heard all four women fell seriously ill after an operation to have their wombs removed, with one patient requiring six units of blood transfused and another needing four units.

One of the patients, Helen Cruise, who waived her anonymity, had also alleged Dr Van Geene blamed her for the post operative bleeding she suffered and she said the UK-qualified surgeon had shouted at her, slapped her and said he had "thrown her womb into a bin" during a meeting witnessed by her daughter Aneka and a nurse. She also alleged he had failed to explain the procedure and risks attached, and failed to review her before the operation.

The allegations were disputed by Dr Van Geene, who is no longer practising, when he gave evidence. In his closing argument yesterday, Dr Van Geene's legal counsel said the allegations by Ms Cruise were "ferociously serious" and were "disgraceful" and had not been proven beyond all doubt.

Eugene Gleeson SC also said that "no deficiencies in his client's techniques" had been identified and that no complications had arisen during surgery.

Complaints from the other three patients included those relating to the justification for carrying out the hysterectomies in the first place.

Delivering the verdict yesterday afternoon, the inquiry chair John Nisbet said the evidence of Ms Cruise, her daughter and the nurse had proven as a fact that Dr Van Geene had communicated in an inappropriate way.

He said this was a "serious failure to meet appropriate standards" and did amount to poor professional performance.

In relation to allegations that the surgeon did not review the patient before the operation and failed to explain the hysterectomy, Mr Nisbet said the expert evidence of Dr Peter McKenna had satisfied the committee of a "serious failure to meet the standards of competency that could be reasonably expected from a consultant gynaecologist". Some of the other allegations were deemed to be proven as to fact but Mr Nisbet said that cumulatively "they did not amount to poor professional performance".

Ms Cruise and her daughter Aneka were present at the hearing but left before all the findings had been read out. Aneka Cruise cried as she left the room as the surgeon was cleared of the majority of the claims. Afterwards, when asked why she waived her anonymity, Ms Cruise said: "I did it for other women. We are all mothers, sisters, aunts, whatever.

"We've all have wombs and I wanted to put it out there."

Mr Nisbet said the committee would make a recommendation on a sanction at a Medical Council meeting at a later stage.

There is a range of measures the council can impose, if any, when a fitness to practise inquiry finds against a doctor with the most serious being an order to cancel a doctor's registration or suspend them.

Less severe sanctions include censuring in writing, issuing fines, attaching conditions to a doctor's registration, or transferring a doctor's registration to another division of the register.

Irish Independent

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