Tribunal suspends medical practitioner who had relationship with patient

18 Mar 2021

A medical practitioner who breached professional boundaries by having an intimate personal and sexual relationship with a patient has had his registration suspended by a tribunal.

Hobart-based general practitioner, Dr Paul Thompson, was reprimanded by the Tasmanian Health Practitioners’ Tribunal (the tribunal) which also ordered that his registration be suspended for four months from 6 April 2021.

Dr Thompson was referred to the tribunal by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) which alleged he had engaged in professional misconduct by having a personal and sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient.

While the Board was notified in 2019, the conduct had started in late 1996 and ended in early 1997. The relationship resulted in the birth of a child in late 1997.

In 2020, the tribunal determined it had jurisdiction to consider allegations of historic misconduct which, in this case, occurred before the start of the National Law in 2010.1 

The tribunal heard the matter in February 2021. The Board alleged Dr Thompson had maintained an intimate personal and sexual relationship with a patient he treated 11 times while practising as a GP between 5 September 1996 and 6 January 1997.

The tribunal considered the power imbalance in the doctor/patient relationship, noting that a vulnerable patient was exploited and her medical care compromised. It found that Dr Thompson had breached professional boundaries.

The tribunal noted Dr Thompson was remorseful, was of good character, had no history of disciplinary action against him and had an impressive professional record. However, the tribunal said his conduct required more than a caution as it seriously undermined confidence in the medical profession.

A period of suspension was necessary to deter other members of the medical profession from engaging in sexual intercourse with a patient.

‘A clear message must be sent that serious consequences will follow a breach of this simple and fundamental rule.’

The tribunal’s decision is published on the AustLII website.

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

 
 
Page reviewed 18/03/2021