Amanda O'Brien went into Dr. Mahmood Kara's office in 2019 for what was supposed to be a relatively simple procedure: a breast lift that would leave her existing implants, which he had put in 10 years earlier, intact.
Instead, O'Brien ended up having to undergo five surgeries in the span of a year. The whole ordeal led to an infection, deformed and scarred breasts, the removal of her existing implants and a botched breast lift that cost around $17,000.
"That entire experience had a significant impact on my life," she said. "I was very sick and emotionally drained."
O'Brien is the representative plaintiff in a proposed $6 million class-action lawsuit against the Toronto doctor that was filed on behalf of patients who claim they suffered disfigurement, scarring or injury after receiving surgery by Kara.
The doctor, who also goes by Mahmud Kara, owns Dr. Kara Plastic Surgery and previously operated four private clinics and two satellite locations across the Greater Toronto Area.
None of the allegations against Kara have been tested in court and the suit has yet to be certified as a class action.
Through his lawyer, Kara declined an interview request from CBC, stating the matter is before the courts. Neither he nor his lawyer, Adam Patenaude, answered specific questions. In an email, Patenaude said Kara denies the allegations in the claim.
"While Dr. Kara has not yet filed a statement of defence, he denies all of the allegations of negligence, breach of duty and misconduct in the statement of claim and will resist them," Patenaude said.
CBC News first reported on Kara in October 2021, when several patients said he took thousands of dollars of their money in deposits for procedures he didn't end up doing.
CBC has learned he's since repaid some of those patients. However, in addition to the proposed class action lawsuit, he's facing a second suit alleging breach of contract.
And, in a rare move by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), his medical licence has been temporarily suspended while the regulatory body investigates complaints against him.
The suspension was made under a section of the Regulated Health Professionals Act, which allows the CPSO to put a temporary suspension in place if there's evidence to suggest patients may otherwise be exposed to risk of harm or injury.
Kara's clinic website says his practice is temporarily closed, but will be reopening soon. It also includes a note on how patients can request their medical records.
Lawsuit claims 'callous disregard' for patient safety
The proposed class action includes 16 members so far and claims Kara and his clinic conducted business "in a high-handed and arrogant manner and with a wanton and callous disregard for patient safety."
According to lawyer Kris Bonn, who filed the claim on behalf of the patients, "He really abused their trust and just fell off the face of the earth, as far as we can understand, and didn't follow up with proper aftercare."
WATCH | Amanda O'Brien says her life has been significantly impacted:
The lawsuit also claims breast implant manufacturers stopped supplying Kara with products, so he used old ones he had in stock.
"As a result, Dr. Kara put implants in patients that were not the size that the patients had agreed to and what the patients had paid for," the statement of claim says.
Patient says Kara's surgery left her with deformed breast
O'Brien's ordeal began in the summer of 2019, when she travelled more than 100 kilometres from Peterborough, Ont. to the Toronto suburb of Scarborough for breast lift surgery with Kara.
The claim states after O'Brien was medicated and under sedation, Kara told her there would be a change of plans: he'd have to remove her existing implants and she'd need to come back for the breast lift surgery after she healed.
The claim states O'Brien agreed under duress, but was not told she'd have to purchase new implants at a cost of $10,000.
She eventually agreed to pay for the new implants, also under duress, but asked for a refund for the $17,000 breast lift, according to the claim. She told the clinic if it didn't agree, she'd consider legal action.
Kara's office offered her a deal: sign a document that stated O'Brien wouldn't take legal action or write any negative comments about Kara, and the office would give her a partial refund for the lift, according to documents reviewed by CBC. O'Brien didn't sign it.
A few months later, O'Brien says the office contacted her and offered to waive the cost of the new implants and provide a discounted breast lift without her having to sign anything. She agreed.
In January 2020, O'Brien got the breast lift surgery, which led to a "severe infection" in her left breast, according to the claim.
The claim states in a seven-month period, Kara performed three additional surgeries in an attempt to address the infection and subsequent deformity to her breast, with no success.
"I suffered probably from some depression. It definitely took a toll," O'Brien said.
After the last attempt to fix the damage was unsuccessful, O'Brien contacted the clinic requesting a follow-up appointment, but never heard back, according to the claim. She decided not to pursue it further.
She doesn't know if yet another surgery would be able to help fix the damage she says Kara did. At this point, she's too afraid to find out.
"I've lost faith and the ability to trust this industry."
'I'm not comfortable, I'm not confident'
In photographs, O'Brien's breasts appear lopsided with a scar on her right breast and a more severe one on her left.
She describes its appearance as if someone sewed a piece of fabric, then pulled the stitch from the inside to create a puckered seam.
"The skin is very loose. One [breast] is a totally different size than the other," she said. "I'm not comfortable, I'm not confident. I don't like looking at myself in the mirror."
O'Brien says she also struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms while in medical settings, including panic attacks at the dentist.
"This wasn't the norm for me my entire life. I'm 42 years old," she said.
Her lawyer says while there are risks of infection and scarring after surgery, O'Brien's case is out of the ordinary.
"I think the level that we've seen here in the number of women affected certainly suggests something was not being done properly," Bonn told CBC.
Kara returned some deposits after breach of contract lawsuit
Kara is the subject of another lawsuit involving 19 plaintiffs that claims he breached their contracts by taking their deposit and not performing the procedure.
The claim, which was filed in October, is for the amounts paid by each client, which total more than $200,000, along with $25,000 each in punitive damages.
Deborah Laurie is the claim's representative plaintiff and paid a deposit of just over $9,600 for a breast lift. She says it was her dream to get the procedure done, after waiting 15 years.
A few months after the claim was filed, she got her deposit back, but says her dream is ruined.
"In the end I got my money back and I'm happy," she said. "But I just forgot about my dream. Now I'm scared to even try again, because I don't know if there's any safety nets out there."
Laurie is one of several women CBC spoke with who had their deposit refunded. It's unclear how many patients Kara has paid back.
Neither Kara, his office nor the lawyer (separate from Patenaude) who assisted him in dispersing the money responded to multiple inquiries from CBC News on the breach of contract suit. Neither did the lawyer who filed the breach of contract claim.
A statement of defence has not been filed in the case.