Tribunal reprimands doctor for failure to report sexual misconduct, imposes conditions

04 Mar 2016

A tribunal has reprimanded a doctor and imposed conditions on his registration, for his failure to report another doctor’s conduct at his practice.

A tribunal has reprimanded a doctor and imposed conditions on his registration, for his failure to report another doctor’s conduct at his practice who he knew had had a sexual relationship with a patient, in breach of the mandatory notification requirements (s141) of the National Law.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Nathem Al Naser to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT), following a notification from a patient who had consulted Dr Al-Naser, at the end of a sexual relationship conducted at the medical practice with another doctor. The patient reported Dr Al-Naser’s conduct had also impacted on her health.

The conduct of the first doctor (Dr Maged Khalil) led to earlier legal proceedings by the Board before this tribunal, which resulted in a finding of professional misconduct. The tribunal ordered a reprimand, a nine month suspension period and conditions on his return to practice, for details see Medical Board of Australia v Khalil [2013] ACAT 76.

In addition to the notification from the patient, the clinical psychologist who subsequently treated the patient also notified AHPRA of Dr Al-Naser’s conduct.

As practice principal, Dr Al-Naser had become aware of Dr Khalil’s sexual relationship with a patient of the practice but had taken no action to report it to the Board or refer the patient to a medical practitioner in another practice or a psychologist for treatment. Instead he allowed Dr Khalil to continue working at the practice and decided to see the patient himself.

During six consultations with the patient, Dr Al-Naser also made personal comments to her about her youthfulness, looks and similarity to a former girlfriend. The ACAT also found that Dr Al Naser’s comments were inappropriate, particularly when she had been a victim of sexual misconduct by another doctor.

The tribunal decided that Dr Al-Naser had engaged in professional misconduct by failing to refer the patient to another medical practitioner for treatment, failing to notify the Board of the notifiable conduct of another practitioner, which is in breach of section 141 of the National Law, and, as Dr Khalil’s employer, failing to take any action against him until the notifications were made.

The tribunal reprimanded him and ordered that a range of conditions be imposed on his registration, including restricting him from having any actual or perceived role as a supervisor for two years. He was also required to complete an intensive course on ethics and professional communications and have monthly meetings with a board appointed mentor to discuss issues, including cultural awareness. Costs were also awarded against the practitioner.

The ACAT decision about Dr Al-Naser is published on the ACAT website.

Page reviewed 4/03/2016