Class action over ‘fast food’ boob jobs
AS many as 1000 women may have received botched boob jobs at Australia's largest cosmetic surgery provider The Cosmetic Institute (TCI), the Supreme Court has been told.
The scandal-plagued clinics were labelled in court this week as like a "fast food franchise", offering "one size fits all" breast augmentation where women received the same round implants in identical operations regardless of their size or breast shape.
Lawyer Sally Gleeson, who has launched the country's first class action taking on the booming cosmetic surgery industry, said she had already been contacted by 240 women and the number was likely to increase.
Two women, Amy Rickhuss, 24, and a 42-year-old, needed resuscitation on the operating table at two of the company's clinics, at Parramatta and Bondi Junction, and had to be rushed to hospital.
The implants used by TCI, which only differed in how big they were, cost as little as $5990 and patients were able to pay them off at $5 a week.
Mother-of-three Narelle Bayon, who claims she was left with uneven and painful breasts after an operation at TCI's Parramatta clinic, yesterday urged women to only go to plastic surgeons, not cosmetic surgeons.
"Having surgery was not a decision I took lightly," the 30-year-old, who has joined the class action, said.
"When I was coming out of recovery there was me and another three girls and when I asked to speak to the doctor, they said he was getting ready to do another one right away."
It was the "nub" of the plaintiffs' case that the company was run like a "fast food franchise", counsel for the women, Anthony Cheshire SC, told the court.
Ms Gleeson, a partner at law firm Turner Freeman, told the court in an affidavit that the company performed more than 5000 cosmetic procedures each year, of which the majority were breast augmentations.
"Based on this statistic and the number of women who have already contacted my firm, I believe that the total number … could be at least between 500 and 1000," Ms Gleeson said.
The case returned to the Supreme Court this week when lawyers for TCI and its former surgical director, plastic surgeon Dr Eddy Dona, tried to head off the class action.
They slammed the argument that the operations were "one size fits all" and said the women had the means to bring their own individual claims, such as the two cases currently before the District Court where two women are individually suing TCI.
The class action is accusing the company and Dr Dona of negligence and misleading and deceptive conduct, the court was told.
The Cosmetic Institute and Dr Dona will defend the claims but have not been required to file a formal defence to the court yet.
It is alleged the doctors who performed the breast surgery paid $500,000 over three years for their training from Dr Dona, who devised the "one size fits all approach".
Operations were carried out under twilight surgery and not general anaesthetic.
Dr Dona, who resigned as a director of The Cosmetic Institute, runs his own surgery - Bella Institute of Plastic Surgery at Bella Vista.
His website states: "You can train certain skills, but you can't give the gift of true artistry. After all, even Picasso trained many artists, but their (sic) was only ever one Picasso!"
CHINA'S PLASTIC SURGERY STAMPEDE
In 2015, a Health Care Complaints Commission inquiry found six patients had suffered life-threatening complications, including seizures and cardiac arrest, after a review of TCI's operations. No findings were made. TCI's Parramatta clinic in Smith St went into liquidation in October last year owing $694,375 to creditors.
Last year the Telegraph revealed the Bondi clinic had inadvertently posted on the internet private medical details and photos of hundreds of patients.
Justice Peter Garling in the Supreme Court has reserved his decision about whether to allow the class action to continue.