A DOCTOR whose experiments on 13 large dogs in the 1980s led to pelvic mesh devices at the centre of a global mesh scandal will front a tribunal after the NSW health regulator launched professional misconduct action.
Retired gynaecologist and University of NSW Professor Peter Petros, 78, will appear at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for the first time next week.
The tribunal directions hearing comes more than four years after the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission received complaints against Dr Petros linked to surgery using a pelvic mesh device he invented, the Tissue Fixation System (TFS). Rights to the device are owned by former Newcastle Falcons basketballer Paul Zadow whose company, TFS Manufacturing, is appealing its cancellation in 2014.
The HCCC move against Dr Petros is the third time he has faced disciplinary action since 2005, including discontinued Medical Board of Australia professional misconduct proceedings against him in 2011.
The case against Dr Petros follows a professional misconduct tribunal hearing against his colleague, gynaecologist and former University of Newcastle Associate Professor Richard Reid, which in April heard at least one woman was left with severe and permanent injuries after pelvic mesh surgery in 2013 by the two men.
The woman was implanted with the TFS device, invented by Dr Petros in 2003 as a “re-engineering” of an earlier device, the Intra Vaginal Sling (IVS). Dr Petros developed the IVS in Western Australia in the late 1980s after experiments on 13 large dogs.
The IVS was marketed by the Australian Medical Association as a “medical design breakthrough” to treat women’s incontinence and prolapse, despite reports of serious complications in women in Western Australian public hospital trials from as early as 1989.
It was later sold to an American company and used to approve a number of pelvic mesh devices to treat prolapse after childbirth, before legal action by women and regulatory action led to its removal from the market. AMA president Dr Michael Gannon conceded in 2017 that AMA endorsement of the IVS device was “a long way from our proudest hour”.
After disciplinary proceedings against Dr Petros in 2006 the Medical Board of Western Australia found he could be criticised for the way he informed women patients about the risks of pelvic mesh surgery using the IVS device but “his conduct did not amount to gross carelessness or incompetency”.
His application for the board to pay his legal costs was dismissed.
The Medical Board of Australia “consented to the discontinuation of professional misconduct proceedings” against Dr Petros in 2011 but was not required to make public its reasons for doing so, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency said.
In a 2004 civil case against Dr Petros a Western Australian District Court judge awarded a woman more than $136,000 after evidence of severe and permanent injuries following IVS pelvic mesh surgery by him. The court heard Dr Petros received a royalty from each device implanted. The judge found Dr Petros “lacked a complete understanding of the obligation owed by a medical practitioner to a patient contemplating surgery”.
In an application to the State Medical Board of Ohio in 2012 Dr Petros said WA Public Health Services was handling a claim by one former woman patient alleging injuries because of mesh surgery by him at a public hospital using one of his pelvic mesh devices. The matter was settled.
At a Senate pelvic mesh inquiry hearing in September a University of NSW colleague of Dr Petros’, Dr Darren Gold, said Dr Petros had been “vilified, ostracized and tormented for daring to contradict the established thinking” on women’s pelvic surgery by developing an “integral theory” that underpinned his devices.
“In any other country he would have already been awarded a Nobel Prize; here he gets destroyed,” Dr Gold said.
But the inquiry heard evidence from women who blamed Dr Petros’s procedure for “their crippling condition”, said Senator Derryn Hinch, who successfully argued for an inquiry.
Dr Petros declined to comment on the HCCC proceedings.
“We’ll see how that goes,” he said.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal is expected to hand down its decision on Dr Reid later this year after 18 women complained following pelvic mesh surgery.
TFS Manufacturing’s appeal against the TFS device’s cancellation in 2014 is being heard in the Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Adelaide this week.