Dutch eye doctor who blinded Algarve patients receives suspended jail sentence

The Dutch eye doctor who robbed Algarve patients of their eyesight has today received a four-year-and-eight-month suspended jail sentence.

Franciscus Versteeg has also been ordered to pay €15,000 to the hospital unit which ended up treating a number of his patients after they developed serious complications under his care at Lagoa’s former I-QMed clinic.

As this news was released, it was unclear what, if any, compensation Versteeg – now understood to be back living in Holland – may be ordered to pay his victims.

What is clear is that the doctor prosecuted for grave medical negligence did not make an appearance in court throughout the trial for grave medical negligence. He may not even have the money to pay his fine, as the reason he did not travel to Portugal to face justice was given as “not having the money for the flight”.

Thus for now the man who blinded a Brazilian single mother, and left three others partially sighted, is believed to be continuing as usual with the life he has overseas.

It is not even certain whether Versteeg is still practising.

He was certainly struck off the medical register in Portugal in 2010, but it is unclear whether this ban has followed him.

In other words, it is vital that publicity of this case extends beyond Portugal to protect any other people who may be under the impression that Versteeg is a respected member of his profession.

As the woman who totally lost her sight told reporters at the start of the trial, “I have lived the last four years in the worst manner possible. I have completely lost my eyesight. Now all I wish is that justice can be done for the sake of my children”.

Valdene Aparecida, 39, was understood to be asking for €95,000 in damages – but no mention of these has yet been made.

Again, it is unlikely that Versteeg will come forward with this kind of money if he did not have the wherewithal for a plane ticket from Holland to Portugal.

Also condemned to a suspended jail term was Versteeg’s former helper Reinaldo Bartolomeu, charged with exercising duties for which he was not qualified.

As the Resident has reported in previous stories, the pair operated on patients without properly disinfecting equipment, which led to the build up of bacteria on instruments and terrible infections for those operated upon.

The four patients cited in the case brought by the public ministry were, in the end, just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2010, when the story first broke, a number of people came forward to talk about their past experiences under Versteeg, including one fellow-Dutchman who alleged 50% of his life had been “taken away” years before by a faulty procedure that robbed him of his sight.

British resident Catherine Donnelly also told us she had been blinded in one eye following two laser treatments and two cornea transplants.

“To add insult to injury, I paid €500,” she told us.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]