A woman whose breast “exploded” after having cosmetic surgery has called for greater transparency following the discovery that her doctor had been sued several times for negligence.
Ashley Blundell contracted an infection and became seriously ill after a breast augmentation performed by Dr Peter Sang Hui Kim.
The 27-year-old is one of at least three women who sued Dr Kim for negligence after cosmetic surgery procedures.
But as he settled out of court without admitting liability and the merits of the claims were not decided, the case was not recorded on the doctor’s medical practitioner registration.
“That’s what got me really irritated because he settled a few cases. If I’d seen that on his record, there’s no way I would have seen him,” she said.
Ashley Blundell had breast implants with Dr Peter Kim in 2013, after her parents convinced her not to get cosmetic surgery in Thailand.
Immediately after the operation, Ms Blundell developed a “double bubble” deformity, where the implant slips below the breast tissue.
However, she was too sick to worry about her physical appearance.
“I felt like I was dying. I was so hot, and then I would go so cold, and then I would just pass out. The pain would be excruciating,” she said.
Two weeks after her surgery, the incision in Ms Blundell’s right breast burst open.
“It just exploded,” she said. “I stood up with help from friends, and it just started to leak and then it just exploded with pus and blood and infection.”
“I got taken to hospital where they removed the implant, but I was on extreme watch for the majority of the time because my temperature would spike so high,” she said.
It will take several operations and cost Ms Blundell at least $20,000 to repair the damage to her breasts.
Lorraine Long, the founder of the Medical Error Action Group has spent decades fighting for settlements to be included on a doctor’s registration.
“It’s all kept quiet, there’s nothing on the doctor’s record, and anyone looking into having say cosmetic surgery, and you want to search him out, you think this guy’s got a good record, I’ll go to him,” she said.
Dr Kim ‘deeply regrets’ distress caused by ‘complications’
Dr Kim, who is now running a practice in Sydney specialising in cosmetic surgery for Asian patients, said he could not comment on this particular case.
But in an email, he told the ABC that surgical complications occur infrequently and no doctor is immune.
“I deeply regret and empathise any distress experienced by my patients because of complications,” he said.
The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgeons, which counts Dr Kim as a fellow, refused to comment on his record.
However, College spokesman Dr John Flynn said all surgery came with risks.
“Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you would like and that doesn’t necessarily always imply fault, it just means that it’s part of the natural order of things,” he said.
He said the College had an internal complaints process which could see doctors censured or their membership suspended or revoked if the Medical Board made an adverse finding against them.
There are no sanctions against Dr Kim by the Medical Board.
Plastic surgeon criticises treatment: report
Independent medical reports commissioned by Ms Blundell’s lawyer were extremely critical of Dr Kim’s conduct during and after her breast augmentation.
No drains were inserted during the procedure, the size and position of the implants was “inappropriate,” and his post-operative care was “inadequate”, it found.
In May 2016, the Medical Board of Australia introduced tough new guidelines for doctors who perform cosmetic procedures, in an effort to raise standards of medical care.
But medical negligence cases which are settled in court are still not recorded on a doctor’s national practitioner registration.
“The law doesn’t make provision in its current form for us to publish that information on our register,” Martin Fletcher, the chief executive officer for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) said.
“If that were to change, that would ultimately be a decision for all of the health ministers around the country,” he said.
Mr Fletcher said the UK was currently considering a major overhaul of its medical register to make a doctor’s past more transparent for prospective patients.