18 Nov 2015
The State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (Tribunal) has found Dr Premanandan Vayal Veettil, who works in general practice, guilty of unsatisfactory professional performance and professional misconduct.
The Medical Board of Australia referred Dr Vayal Veettil to the Tribunal in February 2015, alleging he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a patient who he first met in March 2013 when he treated her at home out of hours. Dr Vayal Veettil denied the allegations.
In June 2014, the Board took immediate action by imposing conditions on his registration as an interim step to manage the risk to the public, pending other enquiries. The conditions required Dr Vayal Veettil to have a chaperone present in any consultations with female patients and to not meet or contact any female patients outside a clinical setting.
In a two-day hearing in August 2015, both Dr Vayal Veettil and the patient gave evidence. The Tribunal focused on the nature of their relationship after March 2013, whether the doctor had behaved in a manner that was sexually inappropriate toward the patient, and whether he engaged in sexual contact.
Dr Vayal Veettil contended that, apart from the initial out of hours consultation in March 2013, he never saw the patient in a doctor/patient relationship and instead referred to her as an ‘old friend’.
However, the patient told the Tribunal that she understood the doctor’s telephone calls and contacts with her in the context of a doctor/patient relationship.
The Tribunal found that Dr Vayal Veettil had no clinical reason to contact the patient after the initial out of hours consultation in March 2013, and that he failed to maintain professional boundaries contrary to Good Medical Practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia.
The Tribunal found Dr Vayal Veettil guilty of unsatisfactory professional performance, in that he breached professional boundaries when:
- between 11 March 2013 and 30 May 2014, he telephoned the patient on a number of occasions and visited her at home four times; and
- on 30 May 2014, he telephoned the patient, telling her he had some test results to give her. He later met her at a coffee shop, told her he wanted to refer her to a sleep clinic and arranged to visit her at her home that evening.
The patient alleged that Dr Vayal Veettil had engaged in sexual contact towards her during a breast examination at her home on 30 May 2014. Dr Vayal Veettil denied the sexual misconduct allegations.
The Tribunal found Dr Vayal Veettil guilty of professional misconduct, when at that home visit he fondled and groped the patient’s breasts with his hands and kissed her breasts during a breast examination. The Tribunal also concluded that Dr Vayal Veettil’s conduct in accessing the patient’s hospital medical records without her permission amounted to professional misconduct.
The Tribunal is yet to determine what penalty to impose.
The reasons for the Tribunal’s decision are published on AustLII.