MANDEL: Decision upheld against surgeon’s social media posts on transgender top surgery

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Holding two medical waste buckets labelled “breast tissue” while dressed in a Santa hat was probably not the most tasteful move by a doctor who performed female-to-male chest surgeries at a Mississauga clinic.

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“For all you good boys,” read the message posted on Instagram by the McLean Clinic, “Dr. McEvenue is not bringing gifts, he’s taking them away.”

The plastic surgeon insisted the post was intended to be “light-hearted” to celebrate the many patients who had surgeries over the Christmas holidays and any way, there was no real breast tissue in the photo.

But in a recent ruling, Ontario’s health review board upheld the decision of a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario committee to provide “advice” to Giancarlo McEvenue that he should better follow the profession’s advertising regulations.

Under the Medicine Act, any advertising by a doctor “must not be false, misleading or deceptive; must not contain a testimonial; and must be readily comprehensible, dignified and in good taste.”

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This one definitely violated the latter category.

“The photograph showing (McEvenue) holding up buckets labelled breast tissue is not dignified or in good taste, regardless of whether the clinic has received positive feedback about it,” the committee wrote.

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In addition to the Santa post, the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee of the CPSO took issue with some of the clinic’s other promotional material online that it said violated advertising regulations. It found that before-and-after photos amounted to testimonials and a photo of an “ideal” male chest was “misleading in that the results depicted are impossible to achieve using female to male top reconstruction surgery.”

The committee also found telling patients in posts that they’ll have an improved relationship following top surgery was a “false claim” since there was no evidence to back that up.

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McEvenue appealed the “advice” decision to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board, which found it was “reasonable.”

The McLean Clinic publishes information about its gender-confirming surgical services and post-surgery pictures on its Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages.

“Chest masculinization is requested by those who find that feminine breasts do not suit their perception of themselves,” the clinic explains on its website. “If you are transgender, gender fluid, or identify elsewhere in the spectrum of those who are uncomfortable with their breasts, you may want to consider top surgery.”

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The complaint was filed in 2020 by Pamela Buffone, who in reality appears to be worried about more than a tasteless Santa shot. She’s the founder of Canadian Gender Report, which believes “vulnerable youth are being fast-tracked down an irreversible medical pathway” and complains there is no minimum age for gender reassignment surgery in Ontario.

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“I filed the complaint,” she explained by email, “on behalf of a coalition of concerned groups, including detransitioners, some of whom had surgery at the McLean clinic while they were teenagers and now regret it.”

She claimed the clinic’s social media posts not only violated the Medicine Act’s advertising regulations but were targeting teenage girls confused about their gender identity. The committee disagreed, finding the clinic’s advertising wasn’t directed at minors nor was it trying to entice minors to have surgery.

According to the decision, McEvenue told the CPSO that the LGBTQ+ community has historically suffered from a great deal of discrimination, “not only from society at large but from within the medical community,” and the clinic’s positive social media accounts gave transgender patients quality information that “not only normalize the procedures, but also advocate for its safe performance in a gender-affirming manner.”

After the CPSO committee decision, Buffone said the clinic’s @topsurgery Instagram account went private.

And as for McEvenue, “Dr. G” has decamped to Miami where advertising knows no bounds.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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