Hermaneli Torrevillas, MD talks about his medical practice; how he lost his lifetime savings in a scam; why he lost his licence to practice medicine in Australia. He also admitted to a near suicide attempt because of severe depression that followed. At a ripe age of 75, he has written 3 books and is trying to raise money to go back into private practice. This is his story.
Philippine Sentinel: Was circumcision ever allowed inside the clinic?
Dr. Torrevillas: “When I went into private practice in 1979, circumcision [inside the clinic] was still allowed. But after many years, that was in 2009, there was a memorandum from the Medical Board that I could no longer perform circumcision inside the surgery so that any minor surgery must be performed in hospital or day care surgery. At the day care surgery, you need to have an anesthesiologist and a nurse so there must be at least three persons.”
Sentinel: So how did you perform the circumcision?
Torrevillas: “Just local anesthesia with the assistance of a nurse and that was still allowed at that time. So for a few years, I no longer performed circumcision. But there were others who could not find a doctor who would operate using only local anesthesia. When they go to a hospital, they were being charged at least a thousand dollars.”
“So I took pity on them, most of whom had to go to the Philippines to have the procedure done. So I agreed to perform the circumcision with the understanding that they would not tell Dr. Languido. I told them that we would do it in my house. So I performed it during the month of December but somehow, it reached Joey [Languido].”
Sentinel: What year was this?
Torrevillas: “That was in 2009. Then I was deregistered in 2010.”
Sentinel: Were you given any warning?
Torrevillas: “Dr. Languido found out that I performed an operation in my house in December 2009, so he wrote me a letter, warning me not to perform the procedure inside my home. He said it was illegal. He also said that it was illegal to do it inside the surgery. He also warned me in his letter that he would notify the Medical Board if I would do it again.”
“During the school holidays in July, I circumcised 5 persons. These people could not afford to pay $1,000 dollars to the hospital so I agreed to do it for a much lesser fee. Sometimes, I even do it for free. I don’t know how he [Languido] learned about it. It was in July and August 2009. The Languido couple — Joey and Marietta went to Singapore for 2 weeks.”
“When they returned from their trip, they asked me if I received any letter from the Medical Board. So I concluded that he had already informed the authorities [about my activities]. So the following week, I was summoned to appear before the Medical Board. The MIP Insurance company representative was also there. I was told that they couldn’t help me because I performed the operation in my house. They said that even if I did it inside the surgery, it was still illegal because I received a memorandum that no such surgery could be performed outside the hospital. I thought it would just be a 3 months suspension because it was just a minor offence. I was shocked when I was told I was being deregistered.”
Sentinel: Do you think there is any possibility or risk of death for such a minor procedure like circumcision?
Torrevillas: “I have performed circumcision for over 40 years. The risk lies in a reaction to anesthesia but the only reaction I have observed was fear of the needle. I am not aware of any death or any complication that resulted in any of the procedures I performed.”
“I was an unsuspecting victim of a scam”
Sometime in September 2004, Dr. Torrevillas received an email informing him that he inherited a huge amount of money from a relative. The sender, a certain Mr. Qin Wang, identified himself as an officer of Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong.
He was not informed of the exact amount of inheritance but was told that it was in the vicinity of USD10 million. Mr. Wang wanted 20% commission for his efforts.
At first, Dr. Torrevillas thought the email was too good to be true. But after several follow-up emails, the scammer sent the doctor a copy of his passport together with a copy of the Will and Testament as prepared by a Hong Kong Solicitor to prove that the inheritance was authentic.
Thus, the doctor was finally convinced and sent a copy of his own passport to start the ball rolling. Dr. Torrevillas eventually lost $1.2 million.
“My total debt from the bank and credit cards amounted to $512,000” — said Dr. Torrevillas. It was about that time when he sold his surgery to Dr. Languido with the understanding that he would remain in the premises to continue his medical practice.
He thought that he faced a bleak future. Already in his 70s, he was still working very hard just to make both ends meet. There were times when he wanted to commit suicide. He said that if he had a gun, he could have blown his head off. In spite of being a doctor, he also was a victim of depression because of what happened to him.
Dr. Torrevillas underwent a coronary bypass earlier this year. The snag in his arteries was probably caused by the tension he underwent after being deregistered by the Australian Medical Board.
The good doctor seemed better relaxed during the interview conducted by Philippine Sentinel. He appeared calm and has just completed writing his 3rd book that is published in page 16 of this issue.
Readers are urged to buy a copy of his book. It will help him make an appeal to regain his medical practice.
(Editor’s Note: As of today, 26 September 2012, Dr. Joe Mari Languido and his wife Marietta have been moving around some outlets confiscating copies of the October issue of Philippine Sentinel where this article has been published.)