Gruesome testimony heard against plastic surgeon

2014-04-13 15:00

He was convicted three times in eight years of unprofessional conduct, but that didn’t stop a Benoni plastic surgeon from practising until December last year.

A procession of witnesses took to the stand this week to testify about the pain and trauma they claim to have suffered at the hands of Dr Luke Gordon.

They trusted him, but the Health Professions Council of SA knew about Gordon’s track record long before most of these patients visited him.

Gordon was convicted by the council of unprofessional conduct in 2000, 2007 and 2008.

He was suspended for three months in 2000, but the sentence was suspended for three years on condition that he not be found guilty of a further offence.

In 2007, he was found guilty of removing too much skin during a blepharoplasty procedure and was fined R10?000.

The following year he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and suspended from practising for six months.

The council had not, at the time of going to press, been able to explain why Gordon continued practising despite so many blemishes on his record.

Gordon, who practised at the Metamorphosis Clinic in Benoni, chose not to be present at the hearing, saying he was no longer practising.

Gordon submitted an affidavit to the council, which convened this week’s hearing, asking it to remove his name from the register. He still holds a licence to practise, and this is at the heart of the hearing.

The evidence was, at times, gruesome.

Seven witnesses, six of whom were women, shared their stories, claiming Gordon had scarred and disfigured them ­after promising to make them look more beautiful.

A Benoni woman who went to Gordon in December 2012 to have her breasts lifted and enlarged ended up disfigured and with smaller breasts than when she started.

The woman, who wanted her identity to be protected, told members of the council’s disciplinary committee that she was too ashamed to undress in front of her husband because of her terrible scars.

“The nipple on the left breast is facing to the left. The right breast is sagging and much smaller than the left,” she said, sobbing throughout her testimony on Wednesday.

The council says that Gordon and two other plastic surgeons have been found guilty of unprofessional conduct relating to failed procedures in the past five years.

The regulatory body was unable to give statistics on complaints lodged against ­plastic surgeons at the time of going to print.

Those who testified this week were 14 of Gordon’s former patients who came together last September to lodge this case.

They also lodged an application at the North Gauteng High Court to force the council to strip Gordon of his licence to practise.

‘Surgeon cost me my leg’

Heugene Murray used to be a star body builder, but in 2007, his leg had to be amputated after a calf augmentation ­designed to enhance the ­lower part of his leg went horribly wrong. He blames Dr Luke Gordon.

In December 2007, he awoke in the theatre at Benoni’s Metamorphosis Clinic. He could not feel the left side of his body and says Gordon told him that the feeling would come back and that it was “normal after such a procedure”.

Days later, the feeling in his body had not returned and he started to feel sick. Murray went to the Linmed Hospital and underwent tests for three days.

“Doctors told me I had tendon lacerations during the operation. They told me it’s either I have my leg amputated or it would eventually kill me.

“I was very upset when I was told there was no other option. To have lived with a leg for 33 years and then told you would just have to find a way of living without it was like somebody had stabbed me in the heart.”

Murray sued Gordon for medical malpractice and the matter was settled out of court. He approached the Health Professions Council of SA to ask it to strip Gordon of his licence and he is one of 14 complainants due to testify during Gordon’s suspension hearing.

If the complaint is successful, it will be bittersweet. Murray, a father of three, is divorced. His wife left him ­after the amputation. He doesn’t blame her.

“When she married me, I had two legs, but now I use a prosthetic leg and can no longer do what I was able to do before.”

‘I now feel less of a woman’

It was the bleeding and the smell that worried Tanya Sleigh.

Her plastic surgeon, Dr Luke Gordon, had told her not to remove the gauze from her breasts until their next consultation, five days after her operation.

She ignored the doctor’s orders and discovered that her left nipple was pink and the right was brownish. Gordon, she says, claimed this was normal. The next day, he removed some of the stitches, and she noticed blood and pus oozing from the wound.

It was an infection, the doctor said. She had to keep taking the antibiotics he’d prescribed and use antiseptic cream.

Days later, one of the wounds tore open. At his Linmed Hospital offices, Gordon told her she had lost a nipple. This required another procedure to remove some hanging skin.

Then came another, after she developed an abscess in her right breast. The pain became unbearable. Eleven weeks after her initial breast reduction, designed to relieve terrible back pain and migraines caused by her G-cup breasts, Gordon allegedly told her he didn’t know what to do any more.

Today, her right breast looks like nothing more than a tennis ball and the left is terribly scarred.

“I have no words to explain my 11 weeks of trauma and pain under Dr Gordon.

“I now feel less of a woman and this has affected my self-esteem. I did this surgery to better my lifestyle, but I am left disfigured with scars that will remind me for the rest my life of the agony I went through at the hands of a doctor.”

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