The Toronto Star reported December 8 on the case of former patient Joan Jaikaran, who filed a complaint against Dr. Austin in November 2006 alleging negligence following surgery to address an ovarian cyst.
According to the report, Jaikaran underwent surgery early in 2006, only to return to the hospital three days later for emergency surgery to treat inflammation of her abdominal lining caused by pus and feces. Jaikaran was required to wear a colostomy bag for the next seven months, and alleges the surgeon sliced her bowel during surgery. The plaintiff also alleges in her negligence lawsuit that the defendant was incompetent, his technique poor and his follow-up inappropriate.
The Star referenced an investigation conducted by the paper in 2007 during which experts apparently revealed that Austin's complication rates and 'unintentional cuts' to internal organs were beyond acceptable limits. The newspaper also reported at the time that the surgeon continued to practice medicine at Scarborough General Hospital, located in a suburb of Metropolitan Toronto, in spite of 14 lawsuits filed against him since 1991.
In assessing the potential negligence liability of the Jaikaran case as it related to Dr. Austin, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario noted that Dr. Austin's surgical privileges were first restricted, followed by the voluntary resignation of the doctor. Thus no further action was warranted, in spite of a finding that the surgeon "failed to meet the standard of care."
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The Star reported that during the initial 2006 operation Dr. Austin, who holds credentials as an obstetrician and gynecologist, removed Jaikaran's entire right ovary. The plaintiff questioned the need to completely remove the ovary since the ovarian cyst was found to be benign.
Negligence law exists to protect citizens from the alleged failings of service providers, in various industries. The medical profession is not immune. "Future individual patient safety is only one part of the public interest," the ruling by the provincial appeals board states. "The public's perception of, and faith in, the medical profession is just as important," adding that "retirement, which may or may not be permanent, does not seem to suffice."