Oz doctor avoids being struck off medical register despite sex allegations

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Sydney, Oct 11 (ANI): An Australian plastic surgeon, who allegedly told a patient he "owns" her breast implants, has avoided being struck off the medical register.

Chris Howe a visiting medical officer in Newcastle, had played a key role in exposing incompetence and nepotism among health bureaucrats 18 years ago, forcing the Health Department to sack the board of the Hunter Area Health Service after it overspent its budget by more than 5 million dollars.

A hearing late last month was told that Howe, 67, had called or visited a patient, 47, at her home for eight months in 2006, buying her gifts, providing groceries for her family, taking her to dinner and on three trips overseas, including one with her five children, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The patient said she had consulted Howe, the founder of the Newcastle Melanoma Unit and a former branch president of the Australian Medical Association, for a breast augmentation and a personal relationship had developed.

Three weeks after the surgery, Howe, who works at Newcastle Hospital, Newcastle Private and the Mater, leased a car for the patient and made the repayments.

However, when the relationship soured, she sought to sell it because she could not afford the running costs.

She told the tribunal she had approached Howe about the matter and was allegedly told they could "make the problem go away" if she spent the night at his house.

She said Howe then grabbed her breast and twisted it, saying, "they're mine. I own these".

The woman contacted the police and made a complaint, but her evidence did not proceed to court because Howe said his gardener had been present and would testify the incident did not occur.

He "absolutely and categorically denied" he had touched her that day.

Now he has been ordered to have a chaperone in the room whenever he examines female patients after being found guilty of professional misconduct by the NSW Medical Tribunal.

The opposition's spokeswoman on health, Jillian Skinner, said using chaperones in a surgery made a mockery of the doctor/patient relationship.

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Pesce, disagreed, saying the tribunal had the confidence of doctors and should have the confidence of the community. (ANI)

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