A man who pretended to be a plastic surgeon and left women maimed has been struck off the register of medical practitioners and banned from applying to practise medicine again for seven years.
Leslie Blackstock was convicted in July 2019 of criminal offences for carrying out surgery, primarily breast augmentation, on nine patients in an unlicensed private health facility known as the Enhance Clinic located in Emu Plains, Sydney.
On Wednesday the NSW civil and administrative tribunal found Blackstock “guilty of professional misconduct and that his registration should be cancelled” in relation to all complaints of professional misconduct against him.
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The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) told the tribunal that in relation to 11 patients, Blackstock failed to conduct appropriate preoperative assessments; did not obtain informed consent; inappropriately sat sedated patients up during surgery to get consent for breast implants; failed to provide adequate postoperative care for his patients; invited friends and relatives to come into the operating room; failed to keep proper medical records; and in one instance, conducted a labiaplasty at the same time as breast augmentation without a general anaesthetic and in an unlicensed facility.
An expert report from Dr Ron Bezic said the postoperative care provided to the women was “significantly below standard”, with some women discharged just 20 minutes after their surgeries.
Some women were not even physically examined prior to surgery, the tribunal heard. The tribunal decision says in one case, Blackstock “relied on photos submitted by the patient and her self-measurements”.
Blackstock had no plastic surgery qualifications, the tribunal heard, but falsely described himself as one, carrying out breast augmentation.
In his lawyers’ letter to the HCCC, Blackstock believed no license was required for the breast procedures he was performing because they were reconstructive rather than cosmetic in nature and did not fall under the Private Health Facilities Act 2007, which requires such surgeries be performed in a licensed facility.
In Australia, a specialist plastic surgeon only performs surgeries in accredited hospitals and facilities, governed by the highest possible safety standards and regularly audited by health departments.
The NSW Parliamentary Report into Cosmetic Surgery recommended banning use of the title “cosmetic surgeon” to eliminate consumer confusion. Specialist plastic surgeons undergo years of training and ongoing assessment to qualify for their specialist title.
“We do not accept that position asserted by the practitioner is or was sustainable,” the tribunal found. “First, and significantly, the practitioner pleaded guilty to the charges of operating in unlicensed premises in the local court for the very type of procedure that he performed on Patient J.”
The NSW district court previously heard Blackstock performed breast implant surgery on Patient J without an anaesthetist in his house, where surgical sheets were draped over old armchairs, leaving the woman suffering from severe complications including an infection requiring further surgeries.
Patient J told the tribunal: “I cannot stand for my breasts to be touched or looked at.
“My right breast is very painful and I am waiting for it to split,” she said. “My body is in a terrible state and the effect of the surgeries is profound. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.”
The tribunal agreed with Bezic’s opinion that Blackstock “engaged in a gross dereliction of his duty of care to Patient J, when he washed out an infected implant on two occasions and reinserted the implant”.
The tribunal agreed with the submission of counsel for the HCCC “that the impact the surgery had on the women cannot be overstated”.
“We find the practitioner had no regard for legislative requirements and flagrantly, when he was clearly on notice of those requirements, operated in unlicensed premises,” the tribunal decision said.
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“We find that the practitioner’s practice of sitting patients up during surgery exposed them to unacceptable risks, including infection. The women could not have given any rational consent to the inserted implants being appropriate in circumstances where they were heavily sedated.”
The tribunal cancelled Blackstock’s medical registration, and imposed a period of seven years before he can again apply for registration.
“It matters not that the practitioner says he does not intend to practise again,” the tribunal found.
“What is relevant in our view is that the tribunal’s orders reflect the seriousness with which we regard this practitioner’s conduct, and ensure that the public is protected from him or other practitioners engaging in similar conduct.”
Blackstock was also ordered to pay the HCCC’s costs.