01 Jun 2016
A medical practitioner found to have engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct cannot reapply for registration for three years.
A medical practitioner found to have engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct in the examination of two female patients cannot reapply for registration in Australia for three years.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) started disciplinary proceedings with the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) against Dr Deon Rall in April 2014.
This followed an investigation into allegations against Dr Rall that he had performed internal vaginal examinations on two patients when the examinations were not necessary and were inconsistent with the correct procedure. While agreeing that they had consented to the examinations, the two women asserted that a chaperone was not present and that Dr Rall had stimulated the clitoris.
In early 2009, Dr Rall voluntarily gave undertakings to the former Medical Board of Queensland regarding the use of chaperones and the keeping of an appropriate register. However, he returned to South Africa in 2009-10 before any disciplinary outcome as a result of the two patients’ allegations.
Dr Rall’s registration as a medical practitioner in Australia expired on 10 February 2010 and he remained unregistered in Australia during the course of the tribunal proceedings. He retired from medical practice in South Africa in July 2014 and subsequently surrendered his registration in South Africa.
During the tribunal proceedings, Dr Rall consistently denied any sexual motivation in his dealings with his patients. Dr Rall’s description of the relevant examinations was generally consistent with that of his patients. However, he suggested that his thumb was not in constant contact with each patient’s clitoris.
The Board and Dr Rall were largely in agreement about sanction, which included seeking an order that Dr Rall refrain from reapplying for registration as a health practitioner in any jurisdiction in Australia. The Board also asked the tribunal to make an order indicating that, had Dr Rall been registered at the time of the decision, the tribunal would have cancelled his registration. Submissions were filed with the tribunal and a hearing was held on 8 April 2016. The tribunal issued its decision on 12 April 2016.
The tribunal found that Dr Rall’s conduct in the months of March and May 2009, constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct under the Health Practitioners (Disciplinary Proceedings) Act 1999. Specifically, that Dr Rall’s professional conduct was of a lesser standard than that which might reasonably be expected of him by the public or his professional peers.
As to the issue of whether his conduct was sexually motivated, the tribunal found this had not been satisfactorily proved to the required standard. The finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct was on the basis of considerations of inadequacies in his medical practice as follows:
The tribunal said that the absence of a chaperone on its own would not amount to unprofessional conduct. However, it contributed ‘to a fuller picture of his overall conduct in two very unsatisfactory examinations’.
The tribunal ordered that Dr Rall refrain from reapplying for registration as a health practitioner in any jurisdiction in Australia for three years.
The issue of costs is yet to be decided.
The reasons for the tribunal’s decision will be published on the AustLII website.