Lagoa eye doctor who blinded patients “should receive jail term” court hears

The Public Ministry (MP) has asked that Franciscus Versteeg – the Dutch eye doctor accused of blinding patients at his Lagoa eye clinic – be handed a jail term, albeit suspended.

But as the trial drew to a close in Portimão this week, it was still uncertain whether Versteeg would even turn up to hear his sentencing.

As reported before Christmas (see: the disgraced eye doctor has remained in Holland throughout the trial, claiming he cannot afford the trip to Portugal.

Thus the harrowing stories from four victims – one of whom claims to have been left totally blind as a result of Versteeg’s eye surgery – has gone ahead in the defendant’s absence.

Presenting final arguments on Thursday, the MP said Versteeg’s “gross negligence and disinterest” in the ensuing court proceedings had been more than proved. The lawyer for the various victims was of the same opinion – and both called for a suspended jail sentence, clearly designed to carry maximum stigma and make it difficult for Versteeg to practice ever again.

The eye doctor’s defence, however, has appealed for what she termed the “more adequate and efficient sentence of a fine”.

The judge is expected to decide Versteeg’s sentence on January 22, along with that of psychologist Reinaldo Bartolomeu – charged with working illegally at the I-QMed clinic and not using gloves during surgical procedures.
Justice will thus have taken over four years.

Victim Valdelene Aparecida who came to court on the arm of her daughter told reporters when the trial began: “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.”

Versteeg was charged with four crimes of offence to physical integrity through aggravated negligence.

When this story first broke in 2010, the Dutch man denied lack of hygiene in his surgeries and claimed “horrible accidents” “can sometimes happen” – but Diário de Notícias ran a background check and found as many as 15 patients unhappy with the way their eye surgeries had turned out.

One, Ronald Rietbroek, told DN that he felt 50% of his life had been “stolen” as a result of eye surgeries 10 years previously. But by the time Portugal’s doctors association had decided to suspend Versteeg from practising in Portugal, he was out of national jurisdiction and “difficult to notify” in Holland, the paper said.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]