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Doctored: mesh surgeon admits to writing fake patient notes

Dr Richard ReidPELVIC mesh surgeon and former Newcastle University associate professor Richard Reid was a man whose “first instinct was to lie to protect himself”, a tribunal was told after evidence he prepared false patient notes after a woman initiated legal action following mesh surgery.

Dr Reid “initially lied” when giving evidence about the notes, telling the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal a “really unlikely story” about lost records until he later “confessed that it was made up”, the barrister for the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), Kate Richardson, told the tribunal hearing on Friday.

Dr Reid wrote in the false notes sent to the woman’s lawyers that he warned heran Australian-manufactured pelvic mesh device was “novel” before her surgery in 2013. But in another set of notes to the woman there was no reference to the Tissue Fixation System (TFS) pelvic mesh device, the tribunal was told.

The TFS device, invented by Australian doctor Peter Petros and manufactured in South Australia by former Australian basketballer and Newcastle Falcons player Paul Zadow, was one of the first mesh productsin the world to be deregistered a year later for lack of evidence backing its safe use.

Mr Zadow’s appeal against the 2014 deregistration returns to court in May.

Ms Richardson told the tribunal that in producing the false notes and initially giving evidence that they were valid, Dr Reid was “seeking to impugn the evidence of (the woman) as to what she was told and not told”.

Ms Richardson rejected Dr Reid’s submission that he panicked when he received the lawyer’s letter to produce the woman’s notes and that it was a “human reaction to panic under pressure”.

“It’s actually a dishonest reaction of someone who’s prepared to make things up,” Ms Richardson told the tribunal.

“In the witness box his first instinct was to lie to protect himself.”

​Dr Reid is facing allegations he engaged in unethical and improper conduct and professional misconduct after the HCCC investigated complaints from 18 women, and also breached conditions imposed on him by the NSW Medical Council in 2011 while treating women and implanting them with pelvic mesh devices in 2013.

During submissions on Friday after several weeks of evidence in December, Ms Richardson described Dr Reid’sresponse to a question about how he changed his practiceonce the Medical Council imposed the conditions as “quite breathtaking”.

He told the tribunal he “didn’t change it at all”, she said.

“This is a practitioner who was just basically ignoring the conditions. The Medical Council thought they’d put a protective regime in place. They thought they were protecting the public by imposing the conditions and he didn’t change his practice at all,” Ms Richardson said.

She asked the tribunal to reject Dr Reid’s submission that Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines on pelvic mesh for prolapse “wasn’t intended to apply to TFS tape”.

In her submission Ms Richardson raised the case of Patient K who consented to surgery using one kind of pelvic mesh but was one of the first patients implanted with TFS by Dr Reid in mid-2013 and suffered serious and permanent injuries, without her consent.

Patient O had pelvic mesh surgery to repair a prolapse, and two further surgeries by Dr Reid within quick succession after they failed. Dr Reid did not obtain a second opinion before the surgery, as required under the Medical Council conditions.The tribunal heard evidence from several doctors critical of the repeat surgeries within a short timeframe. The woman suffered severe and permanent injuries and was sent home to self-catheterise for the rest of her life.

A second of Dr Reid’s patients was sent home with a letter toher general practitioner urging that it was “absolutely mandatory the patient continue to self-catheterise for the rest of her life”.

Ms Richardson told the tribunal Dr Reid failed to tell his patients at Sydney Private Hospital in 2013 that he was under restrictions imposed by the hospital that required him to be supervised by TFS inventor Dr Peter Petros during surgery.

While in evidence Dr Reid described the supervision as “cooperative in nature and by way of training”, it was “something imposed on him” that his patients had a right to know, Ms Richardson said.

A gynaecologist who gave evidence for Dr Reid said he did not believe women patients needed to know Dr Reid could only operate as a surgeon with a supervisor, but Ms Richardson said the evidence showed “a breathtaking lack of understanding of informed consent”.

“It’s a very old school view that doctors know best and patients don’t have a right to know information that questions the doctors’ abilities,” Ms Richardson told the tribunal.

The tribunal has reserved its decision.

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