A doctor has been suspended from medical practice for six months after he had inappropriate sexual relationships, including trysts in his consulting rooms, and inappropriately prescribed antidepressants
The Health Care Complaints Commission prosecuted a complaint against the NSW GP, alleging that he had engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
Specifically, he was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate physical contact and also had a sexual and personal relationship with a woman identified at a NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing as Patient A, while Patient A was his patient.
In 2017 he failed to inform Patient A’s psychologist of their relationship, knowing Patient A was seeing the psychologist for her marriage difficulties.
In 2009, proper professional boundaries had not been observed when the GP went to Patient A’s home and requested and received a shoulder massage from her; in 2010, he and Patient A went on an outing of a personal nature and by 2011, he had visited Patient A’s home and touched and kissed her in a way which stepped across professional boundaries.
Between 2012 and 2016, he maintained an inappropriate personal and sexual relationship with her, with the pair having sex on several occasions at his consulting rooms.
He continued to provide medical treatment to her.
He was also alleged to have maintained an inappropriate sexual relationship with another woman, Patient B, and continued to treat her instead of referring her to another practitioner.
The inappropriate relationship in this case took place between 2004 and 2007, though until 2016, he continued to provide treatment to Patient B.
He was also alleged to have inappropriately treated a family member including by prescribing anti-depressants, and without seeking independent medical opinion for his family member.
This involved providing care and treatment to Patient C, the family member on approximately 35 occasions, and prescribing Avanza and Sertraline on two occasions without independent opinion from another practitioner.
The GP admitted the vast majority of the allegations against him.
One of the complaints made to the HCCC came from an assistant minister at the local Anglican church, to whom the GP admitted the sexual contact with Patient A, and the inappropriateness of this contact. The Reverend urged the GP to self-report, “as a mark of integrity and a clear sign of his determination to change his behaviour”.
However, the GP refused to do so, and the Reverend excluded him from the ongoing life of the church.
He then told the GP he planned to report the conduct to the HCCC, to which the GP responded by sending a letter from solicitors claiming this would be defamatory and harm the doctor’s earning capacity and reputation.
The doctor apologised to the Tribunal, the profession and the three patients and said that his present focus was “completely committed to confession, repentance and restoration,” the Tribunal noted. He has also been working hard to re-engage with church colleagues.
In its judgment the Tribunal found all allegations against the doctor proved and that they amounted to professional misconduct.
The Tribunal expressed concerns about the GP’s “limited insight regarding professional medical ethics” and concluded that he engaged in a deliberate departure from accepted standards, an attitude of indifference and an abuse of his medical privileges of such seriousness that he should be suspended from medical practice for a period of six months, and then practice under conditions restricting him to practice in group practices under supervision.
The Tribunal also ordered him to undertake mentoring and engage in psychological treatment.