A medical practitioner was recently found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to his assessment of a patient in an emergency department on one occasion, his prescription of schedule 4 drugs and his relationship with her during a subsequent 3 week period.
The practitioner involved had initially assessed the patient in an emergency department when she presented with vomiting and shoulder pain. Approximately one month after this event the patient saw the practitioner leaving the hospital and engaged in conversation with him. It was alleged, but vehemently denied by the practitioner, that following this encounter the practitioner drove the patient to her home and engaged in sexual contact with her. The practitioner conceded that during a 3 week period after this encounter he made one call and sent 9 text messages to the patient and that this represented a failure on his part to maintain proper professional boundaries.
The patient was not available to be cross-examined on the content of her statement and the HCCC sought to overcome this by corroborating the evidence contained within the patient’s statement by other evidence. The Tribunal accepted that the practitioner had been prejudiced by not being able to cross-examine the patient on her statement. However there were many instances in which the patient’s evidence had been corroborated and therefore the Tribunal accepted her unsworn and untested statement that she had consensual sex with the practitioner. The Tribunal did not accept the submissions made on behalf of the practitioner that various inconsistencies in the patient’s evidence were sufficient to lead them to disregard the patient’s statement on this aspect. The Tribunal found many aspects of the practitioner’s evidence to be unconvincing.
The complaints that were proven, in addition to the sexual contact, related to inappropriate prescribing of medication without appropriate clinical assessment and in circumstances where there were contraindications to prescribing the medication as well as a failure to appropriately assess and treat the patient’s complaints of shoulder pain.
The Tribunal concluded that when the proven complaints were considered cumulatively, it was appropriate to conclude that the practitioner was guilty of professional misconduct. This was particularly so because of the vulnerability of the patient involved, noting that she was emotionally unstable, suffering from a mental illness and had taken an intentional overdose of drugs two days after the practitioner inappropriately prescribed schedule 4 drugs for her. The matter has been stood over to another date at which time submissions will be heard as to what protective orders should be made.
Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver