Director of Proceedings v Dr Maharajh
Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal No. Med13/243D (20 September 2013 and 12 November 2013 (Penalty))
A charge was brought by the Director of Proceedings against Dr Manilall Maharajh alleging:
- entering into a sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient;
- continuing the sexual relationship after the clinical relationship ended;
- interfering with legal process by attempting improperly to influence and procure the withdrawal of HDC complaints.
At the time of the events covered by the charge Dr Maharajh was a locum psychiatrist at the Bay of Plenty DHB in Tauranga. He subsequently applied for the position of Clinical Director of Mental Health Services in Launceston, Tasmania. Dr Maharajh's patient had longstanding anxiety and depression, and a significant past history for treatment for that, including counselling and medication. Key developmental themes related to her insecure attachment to both her mother and father and her involvement in trying to help her parents' dysfunctional relationship. Her fear of separation and abandonment were also suggested as contributing to her difficulties in relationships, as were her attraction to unavailable men, her sensitivity to rejection and her problems with intimacy.
Dr Maharajh actively took advantage of his patient's vulnerability and dependence on him, abusing his position of trust and power to begin a sexual relationship with her. On 18 August 2008 Dr Maharajh (inadequately) discharged his patient into the care of her GP.
After that date Dr Maharajh continued his sexual relationship with his patient in a clandestine manner, continuing to have regular sexual relations with her in New Zealand and in Tasmania. Dr Maharajh took her to a seminar he was presenting, wrote intimate notes to her, encouraged her to study in Tasmania, booked their Trans-Tasman flight so that they could sit in adjacent seats, spent time sight-seeing with her, and on one occasion took video footage of the two of them having sex.
After Dr Maharajh's wife found out about his relationship with his patient, he made a number of improper attempts to interfere with his patient's right to complain about the serious professional breaches which had occurred. The Tribunal found that Dr Maharajh put his own interests ahead of those of his former patient. This included inappropriate communication with his former patient, her father, and the payment of significant sums to her.
Although Dr Maharajh denied the charge, having heard the evidence in the case, the Tribunal was driven to conclude that Dr Maharajh and his wife had decided not to tell the truth in an attempt to avoid serious professional consequences.
The Tribunal had regard to the manner in which Dr Maharajh took advantage of a young, vulnerable and sexually inexperienced woman for his own sexual gratification, such being a complete abrogation of his professional responsibilities as a psychiatrist and of the trust inherent in a professional relationship. There was an order cancelling his registration and censuring him. Dr Maharajh was also ordered to pay costs of the Tribunal and prosecution (totalling $73,000).
The Tribunal's decision is available at: https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med13/243D
Last reviewed February 2019