Shocking details have been revealed in the case of a celebrity cosmetic surgeon who was found guilty of professional misconduct after the death of two patients.
In a decision handed down by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) this week, Sydney ear, nose and throat specialist Dr William Mooney was found guilty of professional misconduct as a result of unsatisfactory professional conduct on a range of other complaints.
Two patients operated on by Dr Mooney died in the days following the operations, one after an instrument used by the surgeon pierced his brain and another after an artery bled during surgery to fix his snoring.
Dr Mooney had also been involved in an ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a female patient.
The Tribunal said the instances of unsatisfactory professional conduct were ‘sufficiently serious’ to justify the suspension or cancellation of Dr Mooney’s licence.
Sydney ear, nose and throat specialist Dr William Mooney was found guilty of professional misconduct by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Dr Mooney working on a patient not connected to the subject of the complaints. The Tribunal heard that at the time of the complaints Dr Mooney was performing approximately 200 rhinoplasty operations (nose jobs), 100 sinus surgeries and around 40 other minor surgeries per year
In 2017, the surgeon had boasted to Daily Mail Australia in 2017 of doing five nose jobs a day from his Bondi surgery.
The complaints brought by the Health Care Complaints Commission relate to three patients of Dr Mooney’s – Patient A, B and C.
Patient A was a 24-year-old man who died in March 2018 some days after Dr Mooney operated on him to help alleviate his snoring, including removing his tonsils.
The Tribunal heard that Dr Mooney noticed arterial bleeding during the operation in the man’s right tonsil. He ‘over-sewed’ the area with four sutures.
The man later started throwing up blood and while being prepared for further surgery at Concord Hospital, suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
The Tribunal found the operation had been performed ‘far too quickly’, taking only 23 minutes according to a nurse, or 33 minutes by the hospital records.
One expert witness, Dr Altmann, testified that the three procedures involved in the operation should have taken approximately 90 minutes.
The Tribunal also found Dr Mooney’s post-operative care was ‘significantly below standard’ in that he relied on the reports of others about Patient A’s condition.
The patient’s family were also unaware of the bleeding during the operation.
The Tribunal found that Dr Mooney filed to use CT scans while operating on Patient B, became ‘disoriented’ and was ‘in the cranial cavity when he thought he was in the frontal sinus’
In the case of Patient B, a 41-year-old man who died in December 2017, the Tribunal head from three experts who again said Dr Mooney performed a complex procedure too quickly and caused ‘significant intracranial trauma’.
Dr Mooney admitted not using CT scans while conducting the operation, which took approximately 30 minutes, the Tribunal finding he became ‘disoriented’ while performing the operation and ‘was in the cranial cavity when he thought he was in the frontal sinus’.
The mistake caused damage to an artery in the brain and the movement of ‘brain tissue containing bone shards’. The patient’s blood pressure escalated alarmingly during the operation as a result.
‘Regrettably, I proceeded to use sharp and dangerous instrumentation at the base of the skull in a high-risk position,’ Dr Money said in a statement to the Tribunal.
The Tribunal found Dr Mooney ‘could not have been taking appropriate care’ in performing the complex procedure so quickly.
Patient C was a young woman who Dr Mooney treated with botox injections, tonsillitis and a nose job over a period of years.
He also prescribed her Duromine, a weight-loss medication.
At an inquiry in February 2017, Dr Mooney said he had ‘one liaison’ with a patient in mid 2014. But records obtained by the Health Care Complaints Commission showed that between October 2013 and January 2016, 3,425 text messages and 807 phone calls were exchanged between Dr Mooney and the patient
The Tribunal considered statements Dr Mooney had previously made about his relationship with Patient C between October 2013 and January 2016.
At an inquiry in February 2017, Dr Mooney said he had had ‘one liaison’ with the patient in mid 2014 and that otherwise, they were friends.
But records obtained by the Health Care Complaints Commission showed that between October 2013 and January 2016, 3,425 text messages and 807 phone calls were exchanged between Dr Mooney and patient C.
The Tribunal found that the relationship with Patient C constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct. It described the relationship as ‘exploitative and inappropriate’, and the conduct as departing ‘from both reasonably expected standards and proper and ethical conduct.’
It also found the prescription of Duromine by Dr Mooney to the woman was conduct that fell ‘significantly below what is reasonably expected of any doctor’.
A further complaint heard by the Tribunal related to conditions placed on Dr Mooney’s registration, including supervision by another practitioner and three-monthly hair screening for drugs.
Dr Mooney had his registration temporarily suspended in December 2018 after returning a positive test for cocaine.
It was unclear whether the positive test was a result of the substance being used as part of surgical procedures to stop bleeding or for personal use.
Dr Mooney failed to attend his first drug test in September, 2018, claiming illness, but the Tribunal heard medical records showed he had been performing operations at the specified time.
The surgeon was required to provide a 3cm sample of hair as part of the drug test but when he eventually submitted to the test in October 2018, his hair had been cut shorter than the required length.
In a statement to the Tribunal Dr Mooney said he researched hair testing on the internet after he became concerned that his handling of cocaine while performing surgery while not wearing gloves might result in a positive test.
He thought if he cut his hair short, it would re-grow to 3cm by the time of testing and his regrown hair would be ‘clean’, the Tribunal heard.
His hair tested positive but experts were unable to say whether the result was due to use during surgery or illicit drug use.
The Tribunal found Dr Mooney had contravened the conditions placed on his registration and his conduct was unsatisfactory professional conduct.
‘We have found that Dr Mooney has, on several occasions, chosen to deliberately withhold information from the regulatory authorities which are charged with protecting the public and maintaining professional standards,’ the Tribunal found.
The findings allow the Health Care Complaints Commission to now consider whether Dr Mooney’s registration will be cancelled or suspended.
The specialist first established his private practice, known as Face Plus Medispa, at Bankstown in 2006 and later expanded to three locations; Bankstown, Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach, He also had satellite clinics in Melbourne and Darwin, employing two junior doctors and 40 staff across the facilities.
The Tribunal heard that at the time of the complaints, Dr Mooney was performing approximately 200 rhinoplasty operations (nose jobs) a year, 100 sinus surgeries and around 40 other minor surgeries per year.
In September 2017 Dr Mooney told Daily Mail Australia about his ‘millennial nose jobs’ for those who wanted a quick solution to imperfection.
‘I have a lot of people who come in with little irregularities or little bumps who want to reshape their nose quickly and without surgery,’ Dr Mooney said.
‘It takes about an hour and people often come in and go straight back to work.
‘It’s a real ‘millennial nose job’ because that generation just craves immediacy and wants everything right away.’