A Bakersfield gynecologist who also practices cosmetic surgery will be placed on 42 months of probation starting Friday following allegations of gross negligence and sexual misconduct.
The terms of probation imposed by the California Medical Board on Dr. Jason Paul Helliwell, who has an office in northwest Bakersfield, include attending an ethics course, a program to assess his physical and mental health, and monitoring by another licensed physician who will submit quarterly written reports evaluating Helliwell's performance.
Also, Helliwell, 46, is prohibited from practicing cosmetic surgery, with a few exceptions such as liposuction, according to the settlement. He must notify all patients he's treating that he cannot perform cosmetic surgery, and keep a log of those notifications to be made available for inspection by the Medical Board.
During his probation, a third party must be present when Helliwell consults, examines or treats women patients in the office, according to the settlement.
A person working at Helliwell's office said Wednesday he's not giving comment regarding the Medical Board's disciplinary order.
The discipline stems from allegations made against Helliwell over a period of years, including the following:
According to the accusation, Helliwell performed breast augmentation surgery in May 2013 on a 23-year-old woman. She experienced complications after surgery, and several weeks later a wound ruptured along the surgical suture.
The wound was closed with a suture, but according to the accusation there was no debridement — the medical removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue.
The incision reopened two months after the original procedure, but Helliwell was on vacation and another doctor supposedly covering for him said he couldn't see the patient. She waited six days and went back to Helliwell's office, had both implants removed and he charged her $1,000.
According to the accusation, Helliwell told the patient he could poke a small hole in the implants and claim they were ruptured so she could get a credit for another augmentation. She refused.
Another patient, also 23, underwent breast augmentation surgery in March 2011. Dissatisfied with the results, she underwent a second surgery in January 2013.
She also experienced wound healing issues, according to the accusation, and about six weeks after the second surgery her right breast implant was exposed through the open wound. The implant ruptured when Helliwell tried to replace it.
Helliwell told the women he didn't have a replacement at his office so he sutured the incision closed and didn't place a surgical drain, according to the accusation. Her symptoms worsened and she developed a high fever, pain and swelling and was admitted to a local emergency room with sepsis.
"(Helliwell's) attempt at salvage by reclosing the wound showed a fundamental lack of knowledge," the accusation states.
It's also alleged in the document that Helliwell first met the patient who suffered sepsis when they arranged a sexual encounter. A sexual relationship developed between the two, for which Helliwell paid her, according to the accusation.