Hunger strike followed ‘unplanned’ facelift justice battle

Norman Gardens resident Helen Stanley-Clarke contemplates her 10-day hunger strike after a shoddy operation in August 2008. Photo: Austin King / The Morning Bulletin
Norman Gardens resident Helen Stanley-Clarke contemplates her 10-day hunger strike after a shoddy operation in August 2008. Photo: Austin King / The Morning Bulletin Austin King

WITH no money for a solicitor to fight her legal battle, no apology from her cosmetic surgeon and no help from the Australian Medical Association Rockhampton's Helen Stanley-Clarke decided to starve herself.

She had nowhere to turn after her six-year fight for medical justice, following an ad hoc facelift operation in Brisbane in August 2008.

So, to highlight her painful journey, she went on a 10-day hunger strike earlier this month.

But her doctor convinced her to give up the hunger strike because of damage to her liver caused by a lack of blood sugar and other nutrients.

Back in 2008, an excited Helen was due to go under the knife for a critical hernia repair and a planned tummy tuck.

An hour before she was due for surgery, a Brisbane-based cosmetic plastic surgeon, whom she paid more than $11,000 for the procedure, allegedly told her the surgery was a no-go.

Stunned and traumatised by the news, Helen agreed to the surgeon's verbal offer to undergo a full facelift and an upper and lower blepharoplasty (eyelid) operation for the same price she paid for the abdominal surgery.

"He stated he could not perform the planned surgery because a slight nick here or there could be life-threatening," she said.

"I was stunned and burst into tears ... this had been planned for weeks, so why hadn't he said something before the surgery."

Being in a distressed state and physically vulnerable, Helen saw the surgeon's proposition as an "only solution option", and agreed to it.

Helen claimed that during the facelift procedure the surgeon changed his mind and performed an S-plus lift (a short-scar, long-flap facelift).

He also performed the eyelid operation.

She claimed she ended up with a number of visible cuts around her eyes, sore eye sockets, a speech impediment resulting from the left side of her face being tighter than the right, a crooked mouth, and a painful saliva gland on the left side of her neck.

In October 2010, she said she lodged an official complaint with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency about the surgeon's ethics and performance.

What ensued over the next four years was a number of unsuccessful attempts to bring the issue to the attention of the agency, the Australian Medical Association board and the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

She even personally filed a statement of claim in the Supreme Court but the judge dismissed it.

To this day she hasn't received any form of response, apology or settlement for the alleged damage.

"Every person on this planet has basic birth-rights," Helen said.

"We all deserve respect and we all deserve justice."

Topics:  cosmetic surgery facelift hunger strike

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