A NSW GP who sent hundreds of text messages – some explicit – to a vulnerable patient, and took another out on a date, has had his registration cancelled
A GP has been found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct over his treatment of two patients.
The doctor had treated Patient A, who had a history of major depressive disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, from August 2015 until July 2016.
During this time it was found he had received Patient A at his home, offered her a bottle of wine as a gift, invited her out to lunch as well as to social events.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found this had occurred in a context where the doctor knew Patient A had been taking high doses of benzodiazepines, had a history of excessive prescription drug consumption, and suffered from mental health problems and emotional instability.
Patient A was “vulnerable” and “impecunious”, described the tribunal.
The GP was found to have gone grocery shopping with her and paid for the groceries, taken her out for dinner and provided her with cash.
Within the space of less than two months during 2016, it was found the GP had sent the patient 429 text messages, 354 of which were sent while he was on holidays with his family.
Several of the text messages were sexually explicit in nature and most of them were found to be “not clinically relevant”.
He denied being the author of the sexually explicit text messages and claimed Patient A had created them using a fake text message app on her phone.
The doctor was found to have failed to end or make adequate arrangements to end the therapeutic relationship where Patient A said she thought the doctor wanted a relationship with her, and expressed a fear that he would kill her.
A further complaint found the GP had prescribed Patient A with inappropriate quantities of alprazolam and diazepam, despite being aware from about December 2015 that the patient was doctor shopping, and that another doctor had planned to wean her off diazepam.
He had prescribed Patient A about 50 tablets of diazepam approximately every four weeks from 1 September 2015 to 25 July 2016, in addition to alprazolam, which he was found to have prescribed to her without the appropriate authority.
During the second half of 2015 it was found the practitioner had breached professional boundaries with a second patient (Patient B) by offering to give her money and medication without charge, gifting her with a stock of medication sufficient for several weeks, asking her out for lunch in what an expert witness deemed constituted asking her out on a date, buying lunch for and having lunch with her at a local pub, and at the end of the lunch telling her he would “come over tonight”.
The GP was found to have visited Patient B’s home in the evening after work and even arrived once with a bottle of wine – where he was aware or ought to have been aware that Patient B had a history of excessive alcohol consumption.
While at her house, the doctor also expressed a desire to kiss Patient B.
In the opinion of an expert witness, most of the doctor’s conduct fell significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner of his level of training and invited strong criticism.
Together all the instances of unsatisfactory professional conduct amounted to professional misconduct.
The Tribunal cancelled the GP’s registration as a medical practitioner. He will be unable to apply for a review of this order until after 14 November 2022.
The doctor was also ordered to pay $16,000 in costs to the Health Care Complaints Commission.