AHPRA has again warned Australians not to use protected titles such as “medical practitioner” if they are not one
Raffaele Di Paolo was sentenced to nine years and six months in jail, with a non-parole period of six years and six months, and placed on the sex offender register for life after pleading guilty to 51 offences.
These included procuring sexual penetration by fraud, assault, indecent assault and obtaining and trying to obtain property by deception.
For around 10 years, Mr Di Paolo had pretended to be a medical practitioner and fertility specialist, but in reality had never been registered as a medical practitioner, or completed a medical degree or equivalent qualification.
He was convicted for performing “treatments” which included blood samples from women and injecting them with ‘homeopathic’ substances, carrying out internal ultrasounds and external examinations, and removing semen from testicles with a needle.
Now, AHPRA, with the support of the Medical Board of Australia, has prosecuted Mr Di Paolo for further offences under the National Law and prosecuted his company, with additional fines totalling $28,000.
AHPRA began to investigate him after the Health Services Commissioner in Victoria notified it about Mr Di Paolo and its conduct during a number of consultations with patients and their families.
Two investigations – one in Queensland, one in Victoria – commenced.
In the Victorian proceedings, AHPRA alleged that Mr Di Paolo had “knowingly or recklessly” used words which could indicate that he was a medical practitioner and/or specialist health practitioner; that he claimed to be a specialist by using the term “gynaecologist” or “obstetrician” in relation to himself; and that he failed to state he was not a medical practitioner, or that he was in fact a homeopath.
These proceedings ran alongside the criminal prosecution which resulted in the nine-year sentence.
In relation to the AHPRA charges, Mr Di Paolo pleaded guilty to five charges. The Court convicted him, imposed a fine of $5,000 and ordered that he pay AHPRA’s costs.
On 13 August 2018 at the Magistrates Court of Victoria at Melbourne, the Company pleaded guilty to three charges of knowingly or recklessly holding out another person as a registered health practitioner by using the initials “MD” in relation to Mr Di Paolo on a number of invoices sent by the Company.
The Court noted that Mr Di Paolo was the sole director and shareholder of the Company and that it had no assets.
The Magistrate convicted and fined the company $8,000, and ordered that it pay AHPRA’s costs.
In Queensland, the further prosecution of Mr Di Paolo took place on 3 September 2018, at the Southport Magistrates’ Court.
In this state, Mr Di Paolo was charged with three additional offences relating to using a specialist title and using words to indicate he was a registered medical practitioner at a medical conference in Queensland in September 2014 at which he was a guest speaker.
Mr Di Paolo did not contest the charges.
He was convicted and fined $20,000 and ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs of $8,577.10.
AHPRA has warned Australians to make sure the health professionals they see are actually registered practitioners, including by checking the Register of Practitioners or calling 1300 419 495.
“It is a serious matter if anyone who is not a registered health practitioner claims to be a registered health practitioner or uses titles that are protected under the National Law (e.g. medical practitioner),” the organisation says. “Both are offences and may be prosecuted by AHPRA.
“The National Law protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles.
“The law allows for penalties to be issued by the Court for using protected titles or holding out as a registered practitioner when not entitled to.
“The maximum penalty which a court may impose per charge is $30,000 (in the case of an individual) or $60,000 (in the case of a body corporate).”