Gastric-band doctor guilty of misconduct
A Hungarian doctor who threatened to cut off a gastric band patient's aftercare when she complained about his aggressive and dismissive behaviour has been found guilty of professional misconduct.
Dr Laszlo Ruscsak (46) sent an email to Lucia Dowd, from Lucan, Co Dublin, which read: "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.
Ms Dowd, a relative of 'Liveline' presenter Joe Duffy, described how the consultant anaesthetist ignored her frantic 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 yesterday's hearing, was found guilty of professional misconduct on a number of counts, including:
•That he disclosed Ms Dowd's confidential medical and personal information to RTE's 'Liveline' radio programme.
•That he failed to provide adequate psychological counselling to Ms Dowd, who was suffering from depression.
Dr Ruscsak was a co-director at the now defunct Haven Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in Stillorgan, Dublin. He is currently practising in Hungary and said he could not attend yesterday's hearing because he was "in surgery all day".
"He talked the talk, he was a good salesman," Ms Dowd said of her first consultation. She had a second consultation days later, and almost immediately flew to Budapest for the operation. "He told me if I didn't make a decision I would have to wait until after Christmas."
Patricia Byrne, a friend who accompanied Ms 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.
Ms Dowd decided to go ahead with the operation against her friend's advice, but was "alarmed" with the hospital facilities in Budapest where she spent two nights.
"I got an alarm when I saw the hospital, it was very old. I knew things wouldn't be as modern as in Ireland but still I got freaked," she said.
Following her operation on October 21, Ms Dowd developed shoulder pain and was worried about the flight home. There was no sign of Dr Ruscsak.
Upon her return to Ireland she was bedridden with pain and found Dr Ruscsak's aftercare non-existent.
"He was very aggressive and very defensive, he took nothing on board," she said.
Relations between Dr Ruscsak and Ms Dowd deteriorated and eventually broke down completely.
Professor Donal O'Shea, a leading endocrinologist who was called as an expert witness, said Ms Dowd was "clearly not a suitable candidate" for gastric banding because her body mass index was not sufficiently high and because of the prominent emotional issues involved in her eating habits.
In September 2010, Ms Dowd heard a woman complaining about Dr Ruscsak to 'Liveline'. "I rang the show myself, I didn't use my name, I spoke to Joe and told him what happened to me."
The following day, RTE contracted Ms Dowd to tell her that her private medical records and her photograph had been sent to the station. "I was absolutely appalled, I am related to Joe Duffy and it put me in a very difficult position. We are a very close family," she said.
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.