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Prescription of psychotropic medication to partner (15HDC0042)

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(15HDC00427, 23 May 2016)

Psychiatrist ~ Psychotropic medication ~ Standards ~ Right 4(2)

A psychiatrist prescribed citalopram, a psychotropic medication, to a woman with whom he was in a personal relationship, for a period of about a year. The psychiatrist did not record the dosage or frequency of his prescribing, nor did he document any consultations with the woman. The psychiatrist was not the only practitioner available to the woman to prescribe medication as she lived in a metropolitan region.

The Medical Council of New Zealand's Statement on providing care to yourself and those close to you in place at the time was clear that providing medical care for a person with whom a practitioner is in a relationship is generally unwise. In addition, the Statement specified that practitioners should avoid prescribing psychotropic medication to themselves or people close to them. If care is provided, the Statement specified that the practitioner is to record details of consultations in clear, accurate and contemporaneous patient records, which also record relevant clinical findings, decisions made, information given to the patient, and the drugs prescribed.

In addition, the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists' Code of Ethics in place at the time outlined that psychiatrists should, wherever possible, avoid providing care to those with whom they have a close personal relationship.

It was held that by prescribing psychotropic medication to his partner, and for failing to keep a record of the care provided to her, the psychiatrist failed to provide services that complied with professional standards and breached Right 4(2).

It was recommended that the Medical Council of New Zealand consider whether a review of Dr B's competence was warranted, and report back to HDC on the outcome of that review.

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