“Contemptible, outrageous and unethical” doctor’s 3-year ban

Sydney GP prescribed oxycodone and diazepam at potentially fatal amounts to a single patient over years

Dr Ghee Hong Michael Tan, 59, has been found guilty of professional misconduct for prescribing a patient excessive quantities of painkillers over a two-year period.

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that “Patient A” filled scripts at two pharmacies for almost 14,000 OxyContin and OxyNorm tablets between April 2012 and May 2014. A total of 951,740mg had been prescribed by Dr Tan—more than 1200mg a day.

During that time he prescribed the same patient 5,985 tablets of diazepam totalling 29,925mg, or 38mg per day.

He also issued methadone to a second patient without the proper authority, the tribunal found.

At the time of the prescribing, Patient A had been enrolled in the NSW Opioid Treatment Program under the care of Dr Robert Graham.

Dr Tan had received advice from Dr Graham on a number of occasions, warning him of the excessive amount of oxycodone consumption by this patient and suggested it be reduced.

Nevertheless, Dr Tan continued to prescribe OxyContin and even increased the dose.

Oxycodone had been prescribed to Patient A “at a dosage which is so far in excess of that which is recommended for pain relief, and even for palliative care, as to be characterised as deserving of contempt,” said the tribunal.

Dr Tan conceded that the patient had never threatened him with physical violence or offered him any form of financial incentive, but admitted he felt a degree of “psychological pressure” when attempting to reduce the dosage. He admitted being aware that Patient A was drug seeking and doctor shopping.

Patient A’s complaints of pain reportedly consisted of osteoarthritic pain of the knee, hip and back regions, scored between two and five out of a maximum 10 by the patient.

The high doses of diazepam were “for underlying anxiety, pain and bladder spasm”.

The tribunal was not convinced by Dr Tan’s excuse of being “overly compassionate”.

“We are left in the dark as to why this respondent would have embarked upon the course of conduct that he did,” they said.

Dr Tan had also failed to consider whether the drugs may have been sold to others, they added.

This was not Dr Tan’s first brush with the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Having practised since 1986, he was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct by a Professional Standards Committee in 1998 in regards to his interaction with a patient.

Conditions were placed on his registration but removed by early 2000.

In the tribunal’s orders handed down on Friday 17 June, Dr Tan was found guilty of professional misconduct and disqualified from registration as a medical practitioner for a period of three years.

In his evidence, Dr Tan said he had no present intention of seeking to return to practice medicine, but wished to undertake an advocacy role as a health consumer representative, as well as a supervisory pastoral role at his church.

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