Patient Safety - Reality Check

Graeme Reeves, M.D.
aka Graeme_Stephen_Reeves

The Butcher of Bega
500 plus complaints and still practicing

Victims complained of being stonewalled by health authorities and laughed at by police. What stuns his victims is not only the scope of the malpractice but how far back it goes. Complaints against him dated back to 1990, yet he was not deregistered until 2004.

Newspapers have become full of shocking tales of torn vaginal canals, perforated bladders, post-birth vaginas stitched up too tightly for sex or tampon use, of hysterectomies allegedly carried out by Reeves without the patient's knowledge. He has been accused of sexual harassment and botching procedures on hundreds of women, like another Dr. James Burt. To Carolyn Dewaegeneire, moments before she was sedated to have a pre-cancerous lesion removed from her labia minora, he whispered close to her face, "I'm going to take your clitoris, too." Female genital mutilation, unless necessary for medical welfare, is a crime under Section 45 of the Crimes Act in Australia.

The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has revealed it dealt with complaints against Reeves concerning 14 patients from 1990 to 1996. Note that more complained to the newspapers than complained through official channels. What does that say about official channels?

Gail Small said: "He was rude. The room was horrible. There were flies everywhere. I remember thinking something was wrong but I just went ahead with it. . . He mutilated me."

As usual, other physicians were referring patients to him as though they were objective assessors of whom it is safe to refer patients. One man whose wife died after her baby was delivered by Reeves had a message for all the nurses and doctors who protected the medic for all those years: "Hang your heads in shame."

Hodad

Had they checked before employing him in April 2002, they would have discovered that not only had he been banned from obstetrics in 1997 but had a file bursting with complaints, three of which involved deaths. The local medical community maintained that they had not been aware of any dissatisfaction with Reeves. Patients should understand that this almost always is the case in medicine. No one watches out for patients. In the medical community few hear complaints from patients, don't understand that the complain systems they set up dissuade most patients from complaining, and then don't believe the complaints they do get from patients. No one monitors performance on their own either.

A damning dossier proves the Medical Board knew of serious allegations against him.

A midwife who worked for several years with him said that nurses often were too afraid to confront him.

"Shhhhhh"

Robin Moon, a midwife with 30 years' experience, spoke of the burden she has carried for a decade. She said that when she complained to management she was told: "Don't take this any further." She says, "I feel like I have been a voice lost in the wilderness and finally I can now speak."

We hear this time and again - nurses afraid to speak, but suggest to nurses that this goes on and they get angry at the suggestion. Suggest to a nurse who admits to being afraid to speak that to a patient that sounds like the nurse values her own well being more than the well being of patients and you get responses like this one that I got from a nurse who didn't report Orville Lynn Majors.

The president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Keegan, said "Simply being in the same room doesn't mean you know what's going on." Medicine tends to think patients don't know what is going on either and doesn't have a good track record of listening when they do.

This case is on-going in Australia at the time of this writing. It doesn't appear to matter what continent you are on, the relationship between medicine and patients is not right. There needs to be someplace victims of practices like these can find advocates and information. There needs to be someone interested in protecting patients more than providers. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and other groups in medicine have organizations that lobby for and advocate for and listen to their own group.

Patients don't have one. They need one.

References:
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23444811-5006009,00.html
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/battle-to-prove-malice/2008/03/09/1204998283826.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2 
http://news.theage.com.au/board-told-of-butcher-of-bega-claims/20080306-1x9b.html
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/hospital-warned-board-of-butcher/2008/03/09/1204998283808.html
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10496793&pnum=0