Director of Proceedings v Dr Y
Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, HPDT 591/Med13/258P, (23 December 2013)
The Director of Proceedings brought a successful disciplinary prosecution against a general practitioner in the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. The charge alleged that the GP had breached sexual boundaries in the doctor/patient relationship during a consultation on the morning of 10 March 2009 and at his patient's place of employment later that day. The GP accepted that the charge brought by the Director amounted to professional misconduct on his part and that a disciplinary finding was warranted against him. However, he did not agree to the facts as stated by the complainant and evidence was heard by the Tribunal.
The complainant's evidence alleged that the GP had crossed patient boundaries by inappropriate touching in the form of pelvic thrusting during a consultation, followed by sexual propositioning later that day at the complainant's work place. The complainant alleged that this had included the GP exposing his penis and asking for oral sex.
Under cross examination the GP gave evidence that he and the complainant had had a prolonged embrace during the consultation which involved kissing. He said that he did not want to have sex in his consultation room, so instead he suggested that the complainant bend over the bed and they hugged over the bed while the GP thrust his pelvis into her backside. The GP said that he did see the complainant at her office later that afternoon. After a long conversation between him and the complainant he made the suggestion that the complainant perform oral sex on him. He undid his trousers and the complainant performed oral sex on him for about a minute after which he left and returned to work.
The GP's account of events under cross examination was divergent from the complainant's evidence. The question of whether the complainant had kissed or performed oral sex on the GP was not asked of the complainant during her evidence. The Tribunal commented on the GP's lack of frankness in his evidence and said that it was totally unacceptable for the GP to provide an incomplete brief of evidence to the Tribunal and refrain from explaining the full context for a time. However, the Tribunal accepted the GP's evidence under cross examination of what had occurred, noting it to be more serious than the original account.
The Tribunal found that the GP's behaviour constituted professional misconduct which warranted discipline. With regard to the clinical consultation during which the pelvic thrusting occurred, the Tribunal considered that the act of the GP hugging the complainant was a trigger for the behaviour that occurred.
"It is hard to imagine a clinical consultation where hugging a patient of the opposite sex does not cross a professional boundary, and it was a particularly unwise step in these circumstances since it clearly led quickly to the subsequent inappropriate interactions."
The Tribunal found that the GP's conduct was inappropriate and amounted to sexual transgression under the Medical Council Guidelines. The Tribunal was concerned that the breaches of sexual boundaries raised significant concerns as to the GP's judgment and self-control. The Tribunal fined the GP $25,000, imposed conditions on his practice and awarded costs against him. Notably the GP is not permitted to see female patients without a chaperone for three years following the decision and must undergo a sexual misconduct assessment by the Medical Council and take any course of action recommended by the Medical Council in light of the assessment.
The GP has successfully appealed the Tribunal's decision as far as it relates to name suppression.
The Tribunal's decision can be found at: https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med13/258D
Last reviewed February 2019