Toronto plastic surgeon told to remove security cameras from consult rooms
The regulatory body for doctors in Ontario has made a formal allegation of professional misconduct against a Toronto plastic surgeon who had security cameras in his consultation rooms.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has scheduled a disciplinary hearing in July for Dr. Martin Jugenburg, who markets himself online as Dr. Six. In the meantime, the college told him to remove the cameras, and he has done so.
Last year, while reporting undercover for a story on breast implants, Marketplace producers spotted security cameras in a closed-door consultation room at Jugenburg’s clinic as well as in the waiting area. The small black devices were attached to the ceiling in the corner of the rooms.
The consultation rooms are where patients are regularly asked to remove their clothing during pre- and post-operative appointments.
The CBC producers, one posing as a potential patient and the other as her supportive friend, were not told about the security cameras. Several past patients of Jugenburg’s clinic say they were not told either, nor did they see any signs mentioning the cameras before staff asked them to undress for a consultation.
When one of the Marketplace producers asked about the camera during the appointment, a staff member said it was “for the doctor’s record,” and that the office had to document everything for “legal purposes.”
Later, when the nurse entered the room, she said the camera was “just a security camera, basically.”
“It’s to protect you, too” she said. “And him. Like if someone ever said something happened and it didn’t. Or stuff like that.”
WATCH: Clinic staff says security camera in consultation room is for ‘the doctor’s record’
Marketplace took a hidden camera into the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute to investigate the marketing practices around breast implant surgery 0:57
Grace, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said she had no idea cameras would be recording her breast implant consultation at Jugenburg’s clinic last year. If she had known, she never would have gone, she said.
“You don’t expect a doctor to have a camera. So it’s not something that I was looking out for.”
After her consultation, Grace decided to book her surgery with a different plastic surgeon.
Grace first became aware of the cameras when she saw Marketplace’s story on YouTube.
“I felt pretty violated and very, very angry,” she said, recalling the moment she realized there may have also been cameras recording her consultation.
“My first thought was, ‘Why? What does he do with the videos?’ Because, honestly, why would a doctor want a video of people with their tops off? It’s not medically necessary. What was he using them for?”
Grace says she is very private about her body and believes the clinic had no right to film her without permission.
“How would you feel if you went to a new doctor, you put your trust in them because they’re a doctor. And then, months later, you find out they videotaped you with your top off?” she said.
After she watched CBC’s story, Grace sent an email to Jugenburg’s clinic. Staff wrote back to her saying all of the footage is automatically deleted from their system every few weeks.
A few days later, the surgeon sent out an email to his past patients that confirmed cameras had been installed throughout the clinic about two years prior.
“The video footage captured on this system was for security purposes and to protect our team and our patients,” he said in the email. “The information was stored on a highly secure IT system with access limited to me or my senior office manager.”
He also apologized for not offering patients the opportunity to opt out of being filmed.
Following CBC’s initial story, both the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and the province’s privacy commissioner launched investigations into Jugenburg and his security cameras.
Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish won’t comment on the case because his investigation is still ongoing. But when CBC initially interviewed him in November, he called the situation “unacceptable” and “intrusive,” saying it was the first he had heard of a camera being used for surveillance in an examination room.
He also said physicians using cameras for surveillance rather than strictly for clinical purposes — after a patient’s consent has been explicitly provided — is “unjustified and would likely be a breach of our privacy law.”
Beamish’s office wasn’t able to give a timeline for when its investigation would be complete.
Allegations ‘denied and being defended’
As for the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Jugenburg was already facing a disciplinary hearing in July for previous allegations of misconduct. These include violating advertising regulations, permitting a film crew into a surgical procedure without a patient’s consent and posting photos of the patient online without her consent.
When CBC asked Jugenburg about these allegations in November, he said the allegations are “denied and being defended.”
The latest allegation that’s been added to the hearing’s agenda reads: “Dr. Jugenburg engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct, including … his use of video recording devices and/or video surveillance recording devices at his practice location.”
Back in March, prior to making the formal allegation about recording patients, the college told Jugenburg to remove all cameras from rooms where patients undress, and also required that the clinic post clear signage alerting visitors to video surveillance in areas like entranceways and waiting rooms.
When CBC asked Jugenburg in March about the college’s direction, he responded by email saying his staff are working with regulators to ensure his clinic is in compliance with all privacy and security standards and he confirmed that the consultation room cameras had been removed.
“Patient privacy and safety remain paramount for us in delivering a quality health-care experience.”
As for Grace, she hopes Jugenburg faces consequences for his actions.
“I felt violated,” she said again. “And he had no right to do that.”
Jugenburg did not respond to emails seeking comment about the reaction of patients who spoke with CBC News, and whether he will contest the college’s new allegation against him.