A cosmetic surgeon who quit Victoria after botching seven operations has been disciplined in Queensland over another surgery bungle. Gold Coast-based Graydon Ronald Van Houten was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct over an operation to remove a cyst from the ear of Browns Plains retiree Bob Martin in August 2001. The wound failed to heal and specialists had to remove part of Mr Martin's ear after a routine check-up three months later showed the cyst was a carcinoma.
The incident has raised concerns about how Dr Van Houten was allowed to practise in Queensland despite the adverse findings against him in Victoria. Mr Martin, 64, reached an out-of-court settlement with Dr Van Houten which prevented him from naming the surgeon. But searches of public documents, which name Dr Van Houten, reveal The Medical Board of Queensland in January ruled the 60-year-old not be allowed to perform various skin procedures until he completed courses on skin cancer practice.
Mr Martin said the ordeal had devastated him. "When I walk into shopping centres now people point at me say, 'Look at that man, he has only half an ear.' People are always saying, 'What happened to you?' " Mr Martin said. He said the compensation amounted to "chicken feed" after his legal and hospital bills were paid.
In its findings, the panel noted the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria in October 2002 had found Dr Van Houten had engaged in unprofessional conduct of a serious nature in the treatment of four patients and unprofessional conduct not of a serious nature in the treatment of three other patients. He escaped suspension because he had moved to Queensland and his Victorian registration had lapsed.
Mr Martin's lawyer Bruce Simmonds said the Queensland panel, despite being aware of the Victorian cases, had imposed little punishment on the doctor apart from requiring him to undergo some training. "I understand he is offering the same types of services here which led to the complaints in Victoria," Mr Simmonds said.
Marilyn Van Houten, a practice manager at her husband's surgery, defended him. "He has no problems that he isn't working through. He's addressed the issues at hand," she said. "Why aren't the newspapers supporting doctors . . . we're not talking about Dr Patel here." The Medical Board of Queensland said recent changes in legislation had led to improved checks on interstate doctors and a public register being established where patients could check doctors' records.
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