Toronto plastic surgeon's licence suspended over social media posts, surveillance of patients without consent

A Toronto plastic surgeon and self-styled social media influencer has had his licence to practise medicine suspended. 

Dr. Martin Jugenburg also faces class-action lawsuit for allegations of surveillance

Dr. Martin Jugenburg is shown in a consultation room at his clinic, the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute, in 2018. (CBC)

A Toronto plastic surgeon and self-styled social media influencer has had his licence to practise medicine suspended. 

In a decision released on May 12, the disciplinary committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) suspended the licence of Dr. Martin Jugenburg — who goes by Dr. 6ix on social media — for six months over inappropriate online posts and for his use of surveillance cameras in his downtown Toronto clinic. 

The decision sparked a mixed reaction from a woman who visited Jugenburg's clinic, the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute, in 2018.

"I'm glad there's been some sort of real penalty from him, but at the same time I don't think he should be allowed to practise anymore as a medical doctor," she said. 

The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, said she had no idea cameras would be recording her during a breast implant consultation.

"I felt pretty violated and very, very angry," she said, recalling the moment while watching a story by CBC's Marketplace that she realized there may have been cameras recording her consultation.

One woman who visited Jugenburg's clinic for a breast augmentation consultation in 2018 said she would never have gone if she’d known there would be cameras recording the appointment. (CBC)

In 2018, while reporting undercover for a story on breast implants, Marketplace producers spotted security cameras in a closed-door consultation room at Jugenburg's clinic.

The college and Ontario's privacy commissioner both launched investigations into Jugenburg and his clinic. 

They found that his clinic operated a network of 24 cameras in offices, examination rooms, the operating room, pre-operative rooms, reception areas, hallways, administrative offices, a workroom and the staff kitchen.

Recordings of the cameras were kept in locked closets at the clinic, although there was a smartphone app where Jugenburg had access to both live and archived video surveillance footage at any time. 

In a statement, the college said Jugenburg's actions erode the public's trust in the medical profession. 

"It was Jugenburg's responsibility to safeguard the privacy interests of the patients of his clinic, and his failure to do so amounts to disgraceful, dishonourable, or unprofessional conduct." 

The college estimates that Jugenburg and his staff would have seen thousands of patients in the two years that the cameras were in operation from January 2017 to December 2018. 

WATCH | Clinic staff says security camera in consult room is for 'the doctor's record'

Security camera in consult room is for 'the doctor's record,' staff member says

4 years ago
Duration 0:57
Marketplace took a hidden camera into the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute to investigate the marketing practices around breast implant surgery

In an email statement, Jugenburg said patient safety, privacy and quality care are top priorities for him and his team. 

"I accept full responsibility for any breach of privacy and confidentiality that occurred in my practice and deeply apologize to patients who were impacted," he said. 

Jugenburg also made it clear that the surveillance footage has never been released or posted on social media.

Class action given the go-ahead

An Ontario Superior Court judge has certified a class-action lawsuit against Jugenburg for his use of video surveillance in his clinic.

The statement of claim alleges that Jugenburg used video cameras to "surreptitiously collect video and audio recordings of nude or semi-nude patients without their consent."

These allegations have not yet been proven in court. 

Kate Mazzucco, a Toronto lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said she and her team are pleased to see that the court has certified these claims.

"Patients [who] fall within the class definition will be able to pursue Jugenburg for compensation arising from the serious breaches of privacy that have been alleged against Jugenburg," Mazzucco said in an email statement. 

The claim estimates that the class action will include 2,500 patients. 

CBC asked Jugenburg about the certification of the class-action lawsuit, but had not received a response at the time of publication. 

When previously asked about the class-action lawsuit, Jugenburg told CBC he intends to vigorously defend himself against the allegations.

Social media posts

Jugenburg, who has more than 140,000 followers on Instagram, is well-known on social media for posting before-and-after photos of his surgeries, which include breast augmentations, "mommy makeovers" and "Brazilian butt lifts." 

College documents also show Jugenburg allowed a television crew to film a patient's breast augmentation without her informed consent in 2016 and that his clinic posted before-and-after photos of another patient's breast augmentation online against her wishes that same year.

Jugenburg uses his social media accounts for what he calls educational purposes, showing before-and-after pictures as well as real in-surgery photos and videos. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Jugenburg also posted before-and-after photos of a patient's 2013 facelift on his website without her consent —something she didn't find out about until 2018.

The suspension starts on June 11, 30 days after the college rendered its decision.

In addition to the six-month suspension, Jugenburg has been reprimanded. He's also been ordered to pay costs to the college of more than $30,000.

With files from The Canadian Press