Medical practitioner reprimanded and fined for professional misconduct

18 Sep 2019

A medical practitioner has been reprimanded and fined for his failings in the treatment of a patient with bladder cancer and for failing to inform the Board that his accreditation to practise at a health service had been suspended.

In February 2018, the State Administrative Tribunal in Western Australia (the Tribunal) found that Dr Daryl Alan Stephens, a urologist, had engaged in professional misconduct. He was reprimanded and fined. The penalty of a fine rather than a suspension was conditional on him restricting his place of practice to the Mackay Base Hospital in North Queensland for a period of two years.

The allegations brought about by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) related to Dr Stephens’ management of a patient with bladder cancer in 2013.

It was alleged by the Board that Dr Stephens:

  • failed to read a pathology report that confirmed that the patient had a high-grade muscle-invasive transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder
  • failed to take any steps to inform the patient of the diagnosis
  • informed the patient that the specimen taken had showed that the cancer had grown into the muscle but failed to tell the patient that it was high-grade muscle-invasive transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder
  • failed to take any steps to organise a staging CT scan
  • failed to offer appropriate treatment options (which included radical treatment options), subject to the findings of a staging CT scan, and
  • failed to inform the Board of the suspension of his accreditation to practise at Peel Health Campus (this was not related to the management of this patient).

The tribunal was satisfied on the basis of Dr Stephens’ admissions that his conduct constituted professional misconduct. It was also clear from extensive expert evidence before the tribunal that Dr Stephens’ conduct was substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.
The tribunal noted that although the conduct would ordinarily result in suspension, it took into account the particular circumstances of Dr Stephens, which established that it was not necessary to suspend him to protect the public because he:

  • had completed a 12-month period of supervision successfully (as a result of an immediate action)
  • had moved to a supportive environment where he is part of a team at the Mackay Base Hospital, and
  • provides urological services in North Queensland that would not otherwise be available.

Further it noted that Dr Stephens had exhibited significant insight and undertaken steps to prevent reoccurrence of such conduct.

Dr Stephens was reprimanded, fined $30,000 for the substantive breaches and fined $2,000 for a breach of section 130 of the National Law (failing to inform the Board of the suspension of his accreditation). The Tribunal stated that the penalty is conditional on Dr Stephens undertaking to continue to practise at the Mackay Base Hospital in North Queensland for two years from the date of the order.

The decisions are published on the Austlii website.

 
 
Page reviewed 18/09/2019