Blurred lines

A Perth doctor with an extensive disciplinary history has been struck off for inappropriate and sexualised behaviour relating to a patient

Dr Gregory Duck, 62, from Bassendean in Western Australia, has had his medical registration cancelled following a series of actions that the state’s administrative tribunal said amounted to “professional misconduct”.

The behaviour in question relates to a single patient (Patient A) – a person with drug abuse issues whom Dr Duck had treated since 5 December 2012.

Following this initial consultation, Patient A consequently consulted Dr Duck 62 times over the course of one year, during which time he prescribed her Xanax and other benzodiazepines in amounts that experts told the hearing were “not appropriate”.

Having been prescribed ten 2 milligrams of Xanax tablets a day, Patient A “should have been referred for an urgent review by a psychiatrist or specialist drug and alcohol services,” the WA tribunal found, adding that Dr Duck ought reasonably to have suspected that Patient A was abusing the medication and/or selling it.

It heard that while Dr Duck was staying in a hotel in Perth, Patient A attended the hotel room, subsequently took heroin and collapsed in the bathroom.

Rather than call an ambulance, Dr Duck remained in the hotel room and monitored Patient A – a move that the tribunal found reflected “poor judgment in balancing possible benefit against harm”.

On another occasion, Dr Duck attempted a detoxification program with Patient A alone in a hotel room, which experts described as “unwise” and “inappropriate”.

At various times between December 2012 and March 2014, Patient A attended Dr Duck at his residential address, where he allowed her to play music, dance and feed his pets, the tribunal heard.

On other occasions Dr Duck “acted in breach of the guidelines by engaging in sexualised behaviour with Patient A”, by purchasing items of clothing including lingerie for her and photographing her wearing them.

He also took Patient A out to dinner about 10 times over a 12-month period; offered to pay for her dentistry work and computer hardware; and paid for and collected prescription medications for her.

These instances occurred in addition to a pattern of overprescribing Xanax and failing to provide other treatment options based on the best available information to the field of addiction medicine, particularly relating to the prescription of Xanax to patients with alcohol and other drug problems.

In failing to set proper boundaries with the patient, Dr Duck had opened himself up to a perception of possible sexual assault, the tribunal ruled.

“Dr Duck’s conduct was serious. It demonstrated a very serious lack of awareness of and acting in accordance with professional boundaries,” it found.

“[His] conduct shows that the professional boundaries between him and Patient A had almost completely collapsed.”

This is not the first time Dr Duck has found himself in hot water.

The practitioner’s prior disciplinary history beginning in 1991 includes several imposed conditions related to drug addiction; several breaches of said conditions; cautions; reprimands; and fines.

He previously had his name removed from the register of medical practitioners in 2004 for breaching conditions, although it was restored to the register in 2007.

Due to the most recent events, Dr Duck has been suspended from practising since May 2014.

In light of his behaviour regarding Patient A, the tribunal determined his actions constituted “professional misconducted”.

It cancelled Dr Duck’s registration and ordered him to pay the Medical Board of Australia’s costs.

He is unable to apply for registration for two years.

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