12 Sep 2016
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has reprimanded a doctor and imposed conditions on his registration, after finding he engaged in professional misconduct by having an inappropriate personal and/or sexual relationship with the mother of his patient.
In June 2012, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) received a notification from a psychiatrist alleging that Dr Lindsay John Smith, a paediatric neurologist, engaged in a sexual relationship with the mother of one of his patients. Shortly after that, the mother also made a notification.
Both notifications were investigated by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board). In November 2012, the Board took immediate action by imposing conditions on Dr Smith’s practice. Immediate action is an interim action that can taken by the Board to protect public health or safety. In August 2015, the Board referred the matter to VCAT.
Dr Smith admitted the conduct alleged. He also admitted that his conduct constituted professional misconduct.
In February 2016, VCAT heard the matter and decided to make the findings and determinations that had been proposed by the Board and Dr Smith.
VCAT found that Dr Smith’s conduct constituted professional misconduct under the National Law. VCAT noted that by engaging in the sexual relationship with the Mother, Dr Smith had contravened paragraph 8.2.2 of Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia (2009), and the Sexual Boundaries: Guidelines for Doctors (2011).
In its finding, VCAT highlighted paragraph 8.2.2. of the code which specifies that good medical practice involves never using your professional position to establish or pursue a sexual, exploitative or other inappropriate relationship with anybody under your care. This includes those close to the patient, such as their carer, guardian or spouse or the parent of a child patient.
In orders dated February 23 2016, VCAT reprimanded Dr Smith, indicating that a reprimand was a ‘serious form of censure and condemnation’, and imposed conditions on his registration requiring him to continue treatment and engage with a medical practitioner mentor.
VCAT emphasised that it once again sought to send a strong message to medical practitioners and the public that it strongly disapproves of such misconduct.
The reasons for the tribunal’s decision are on the AustLii website.