The Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended a doctor’s registration for three months and ordered him to pay over $75,000 after providing unauthorised medical services to a woman with whom he was in a sexual relationship.

The doctor met the woman through an online app which allows people to connect and create relationships. During their first meeting, the doctor invited the woman back to his clinic, where she consented to having an STI test. The test was performed by the doctor himself, during which he performed sexual acts with her.

During their relationship, the doctor and woman would usually meet at his clinic, where they would perform sexual acts. This included video recording their encounters.

On one occasion, the doctor prescribed a pain relief drug to the woman without making a record of the prescription. This drug was not normally used for pain relief, and was actually a sedative.

On another occasion, the doctor sent the woman a photo of a patient undergoing a surgical procedure. The doctor also refused to delete videos of the woman and himself performing sexual acts.

A friend of the victim later complained to the Police about the doctor’s actions, which led to the Tribunal’s investigation. The Tribunal decided that the doctor had “blurred the lines of professional boundaries” and his actions amounted to professional misconduct. 

Professional misconduct is defined as an action which brings, or is likely to bring, discredit to the practitioner’s profession and which requires a disciplinary sanction.

The Tribunal decided that there was a clear blurring of professional boundaries, particularly with the doctor’s offer to perform unsanctioned medical procedures and failure to refer the woman to a pain specialist.

The Tribunal also decided that the performance of the STI test was contrary to what was expected of a reasonable practitioner, as the Medical Council Statement provides that no doctor is to provide medical treatment to a person that they have a relationship with.

The doctor accepted that he had exercised poor judgement when performing the STI test on the woman, and that the drug he had prescribed to the woman for pain relief was not commonly prescribed for that reason.

The Tribunal decided that the doctor’s actions amounted to professional misconduct. The Tribunal suspended the doctor’s registration for three months, and ordered him to pay over $75,000 in costs. The doctor is now required to be supervised by a person chosen by the Medical Council.

The Tribunal has also imposed a requirement that the doctor disclose the Tribunal’s decision to any future employer, practice partner or healthcare provider that he contracts his medical services to.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as a medical professional. If you are confused about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors