NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has ordered a review of pelvic mesh surgery by former University of Newcastle associate professor Richard Reid in 2013 after evidence a woman’s genitals were photographed for publication during pelvic mesh surgery, without her knowledge or permission.
The move comes a day after a second patient of Dr Reid’s said a male pelvic mesh company representative watched her intimate pelvic mesh surgery at Sydney Private Hospital in 2013, without her knowledge or permission.
Mr Hazzard instructed the ministry of health on Monday to review pelvic mesh surgery at the hospital by Dr Reid and Dr Peter Petros using the Tissue Fixation System (TFS) device invented by Dr Petros, after questions from the Newcastle Herald.
It comes after Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy ordered an investigation into TFS surgery involving Dr Reid, Dr Petros and Victorian gynaecologist Dr Max Haverfield at a Melbourne public hospital in 2010 and 2013 after Herald questions.
It also comes as a landmark Australian legal class action for damages by more than 700 women against pelvic mesh manufacturer Johnson & Johnson starts in Sydney on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hazzard said the review ordered on Monday could lead to legislative changes about photography in operating theatres.
“The Minister has asked for legal advice on whether or not it is lawful for a surgeon or clinician or any other person in the operating theatre to take photographs of a person who is under the effect of an anaesthetic and who has not given permission for the photographs to be taken,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Minister is of the view that there should be a presumption against photography which is not associated with the appropriate care or treatment of the individual patient and will consider whether any further legislative change needs to be made.”
The review will also include whether there were any adverse events related to TFS surgery at Sydney Private Hospital involving Dr Reid and Dr Petros, and if any adverse events were reported to relevant authorities as required under the hospital’s reporting obligations.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the review would include an audit of the hospital’s reporting practices.
Asked what was in place, if anything, to protect patients in NSW hospitals from being photographed or filmed while under anaesthetic, the spokesperson said NSW Health was “not aware photographs were being taken of this type of surgery” and “what has been outlined by the Newcastle Herald seems entirely inappropriate”.
“This will now form part of the current review,” the spokesperson said.
The review will also consider what action can be taken when someone is photographed without their consent.
Catherine Henry Lawyers senior solicitor Jane Bulter said the Newcastle firm was seeing an increasing number of women who experienced serious complications after pelvic mesh surgery.
“There is increasing awareness in the community of the mesh issue and we’re seeing more and more cases,” Mrs Bulter said.
“Unfortunately some of these cases are outside the time limitation period because the women have been told there’s nothing wrong with them and they’ve had surgery after surgery in repairs.
“We’d urge women to contact a lawyer soon if they believe they have experienced injury because of pelvic mesh surgery. We would also ask governments to look at doing something about the time limitation period as it affects these cases.”