GP disqualified after drug, professional misconduct charges

A doctor who asked a patient to pretend to have firearms to sell to another patient has been disqualified from applying for registration for six months

Western Australia’s State Administrative Tribunal has disqualified the medical practitioner from applying for six months after finding he behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.

During a consultation in June 2016, the GP told a patient identified at the hearing as Patient A that he had another patient – Patient B – about whom the GP was concerned.

The GP said Patient B had asked him to supply firearms and illegal drugs, during the course of a medical consultation.

The GP told Patient A that he was unhappy with Patient B’s conduct, and wanted to assess Patient B to see if he was a threat to the public, and if Patient B should perhaps be placed into custody or involuntarily committed.

During the consultation with Patient A, the GP asked Patient A to ring Patient B, and pretend he had firearms to sell to him.

The doctor gave Patient B’s phone number to Patient A, who used the GP’s office telephone to call the other man.

The GP then offered to sell Patient B – through Patient A – a shotgun for $500 and an “untraceable” Glock 22 handgun for $2,500, the Tribunal heard.

A couple of days later, police went to the GP’s residence and found a glass smoking implement, a large china smoking implement, and a small clip-seal bag containing less than 1g of crystal methamphetamine.

The GP admitted that the smoking implements were his, and that he used the glass item to smoke methamphetamine, and the large china smoking implement to smoke cannabis. The crystal methamphetamine was also his, he admitted.

In July 2016, the GP was charged with two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia in or on which there was a prohibited drug or plant; one count of possession of a prohibited drug (methylamphetamine); and one count of conspiring with another to commit a simple offence.

He was convicted, fined $700 and received spent convictions for the first three charges. He was not convicted of conspiring to commit a simple offence.

However, he did not tell AHPRA about any of the charges.

He also provided false and misleading information to the Board and the Board-appointed health assessor about his illicit drug use, the Medical Board says.

The Tribunal heard that in August 2016, the GP told AHPRA he had smoked methamphetamine three times but “did not do it any more” and had one pipe of the drug on one weekend of “about 0.01 grams”.

He said he had stopped using cannabis in July 2016, but urine drug screening results revealed cannabis use as late as 13 September 2016.

At the recent Tribunal hearing, the parties agreed to terms upon which the proceedings could be settled, taking into account a number of facts.

These included that:

  • the charges had already been dealt with by the Magistrates Court;
  • the GP had already suffered personally, professionally and financially;
  • the GP had compassion for his patients in desperate circumstances which caused his lack of judgment in relation to the incident with Patient A and Patient B;
  • the GP’s drug use was not ongoing, and was during a stressful period of his life;
  • the GP had voluntarily submitted himself for urinalysis during the investigation with all tests coming back negative notwithstanding that he tested positive for methamphetamine in hair tests;
  • the GP had voluntarily sought assistance from a psychiatrist to help him manage his mental health; and
  • there was no evidence of a mental impairment or condition, including any substance abuse or dependence, that would or would likely detrimentally effect the doctor’s ability to practice.

The Tribunal accepted the statement of agreed facts and found that the GP behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.

It found he had failed to adhere to Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia (March 2014 edition) in that he failed to protect Patient B’s privacy and right to confidentiality; failed to treat information about Patient B as confidential; failed to maintain professional boundaries with Patient A and Patient B; and failed to comply with reporting obligations that apply to his practice.

The GP was reprimanded and disqualified from applying for registration for six months from 14 September 2020. The GP had already been disqualified from applying for registration until 13 September 2020 in separate tribunal proceedings in 2017.

He was also ordered to pay the Board $2,450 in costs.

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