06 Jan 2020
The Court of Appeal in Western Australia (the Court) has dismissed an appeal lodged by a former specialist physician.
In August 2017, Anish Singh appealed an order of the State Administrative Tribunal in Western Australia (the tribunal) that he be disqualified from applying for re-registration as a health practitioner for a period of 10 years.
The tribunal disqualified Anish Singh from applying for re-registration on 22 June 2017 after finding that he had engaged in professional misconduct in his treatment of patients from 2008 until 2015. The tribunal summary is published on the Medical Board of Australia’s website.
The tribunal had found that Anish Singh, while working as a specialist physician, had on multiple occasions inappropriately prescribed drugs, including anabolic androgenic steroids, human growth hormones, testosterone and other treatments, to patients for which there was no proper therapeutic basis, and which unnecessarily put the patients at risk of adverse side effects.
In imposing the disqualification period of 10 years, the tribunal referred to the lengthy period over which the misconduct occurred, involving multiple patients and multiple prescriptions and other treatments. When the penalty was imposed, Anish Singh’s registration had expired and for that reason the tribunal did not cancel his registration as a health practitioner. However, the tribunal concluded that had Anish Singh been registered, there was no question that it would have cancelled his registration.
Anish Singh appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the penalty was excessively harsh and punitive. He submitted that given there was no patient death, patient complaint or evidence of criminality, the tribunal’s decision warranted reconsideration.
The Court of Appeal noted that Anish Singh’s conduct involved very serious breaches of the trust placed in him as a medical practitioner, particularly in respect of the authority conferred upon him to prescribe drugs which may carry the risk of adverse side effects, and that he breached that trust over many years.
On 28 March 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed Anish Singh’s appeal. It found that the tribunal did not act upon a wrong principle, allow extraneous or irrelevant matters to guide or affect it, mistake the facts or fail to take into account some material consideration. The question for the Court was whether in the absence of an express error, the period of disqualification was so unreasonable or plainly unjust that error can be inferred. The Court concluded that the period of disqualification imposed was within a sound exercise of discretion.
The full decision is published on the eCourts website.