‘Gross abuse’ of position

legal medical tribunal doctor overprescribing

A doctor found guilty of indecently assaulting a female patient, and who prescribed the patient quantities of S8s knowing she was drug dependent, has been struck off

A 62-year-old GP from the south coast of NSW has been struck off for at least two years following a conviction of aggravated indecent assault and a tribunal finding of inappropriate prescribing.

The assault happened in January 2016, while the doctor was giving the patient (Patient A) an injection, and involved improper sexual touching.

At that time he had been seeing the patient, whom the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal described as “vulnerable”, for five months.

Patient A had physical and mental health issues, and was addicted to prescription medications.

During the months in the lead up to the assault, he had asked her to wear specific shoes to consultations and started physically touching her – including hugging and attempting to kiss her on a number of occasions.

He also took a photograph of her without her permission while she was sitting in the waiting room, and sent her over 100 text messages.

Despite being aware of Patient A being drug dependent and having a history of using high-risk medications, he prescribed her Schedule 8 medications Oxycontin, OxyNorm, alprazolam and buprenorphine in breach of regulations, as well as Schedule 4 medications diazepam and oxazepam.

The doctor also failed to exercise appropriate judgement and care by faxing prescriptions to several pharmacies, which meant “the quantity of medications was not being controlled or managed to prevent Patient A from collecting excessive amounts of medication each week,” the tribunal found.

It was only when a local pharmacist stepped in and advised he was only giving one week’s supply of Patient A’s medication that the doctor changed his practice.

The pharmacist expressed his concerns about the use of “this quantity of drugs” and added: “hopefully we can put a lid on the (what seems to be) excessive use”.

In response to this conversation, the doctor agreed to provide Patient A with smaller quantities and started putting dates on prescriptions, so they could not all be filled at the same time.

He told the tribunal that the prescriptions were for legitimate pain issues including a hand injury, and a history of endometriosis and back pain.

However the tribunal found “[the GP] was justified in giving Patient A some pain relief, but not the kind of medications or the dosages that were given.”

The doctor acknowledged that there was a clear pattern where Patient A would tell him about stressors in her life, and he would then arrange to give her further prescriptions or money.

On three separate occasions, the GP gave Patient A an envelope containing $500 cash, $50 cash and another $50 in cash which he slipped into the front of her shirt.

He also transferred money totalling $1,350 into her bank account on four separate occasions.

Altogether there were “red flag issues in boundary crossing”, the tribunal found.

The GP had “grossly abused his position of authority by indecently assaulting Patient A in his surgery,” it added, accepting that the doctor was “extremely remorseful” but also at some risk of re-offending.

The tribunal cancelled his registration and said the GP should not be able to practice until he has successfully undertaken significant and intensive therapy.

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