04 May 2021
A tribunal has reprimanded a medical practitioner and suspended him from practice for three months for inappropriate prescribing, poor record keeping and providing false and misleading information.
On 7 February 2020, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Philip Soffer to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for professional misconduct. It alleged that on nine separate occasions between 2017 and 2018, Dr Soffer had inappropriately and unsafely prescribed Duromine (phentermine), a short-term treatment for obesity, to his patient without clinical indication. The patient was not obese and had a contraindication of anxiety. Dr Soffer also failed to keep adequate records of the consultations.
During the Board’s investigation of the matter, Dr Soffer also falsely and misleadingly provided to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) clinical notes that he purported were made at the time of the consultations when they demonstrably were not.
In reaching its decision, the tribunal noted that Dr Soffer’s conduct was serious. It was not an isolated incident and had instead continued over a 22-month period. It also noted that the decision to provide false records reflected poorly on Dr Soffer and fell substantially below the standards reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training and experience.
However, the tribunal noted that Dr Soffer has put the period since to good use. He had undertaken considerable further professional development and education and had demonstrated remorse and insight into his conduct. The tribunal also accepted the character reports that stated that the conduct was unusual, and accepted that personal circumstances at the time had significantly contributed to Dr Soffer’s unethical behaviour.
On 19 April 2021, the tribunal found Dr Soffer had engaged in professional misconduct on all accounts. It reprimanded Dr Soffer, suspended his registration for three months, and imposed mentoring and auditing conditions on his registration on resumption of his practice.
In advising of its decision, the tribunal stated that Dr Soffer posed a very low risk of any further misconduct. However, it considered that a period of suspension of registration was necessary due to the seriousness of the conduct. ‘It reminds both Dr Soffer and the profession generally that this type of conduct is unacceptable. Other practitioners must be deterred from engaging in similar conduct.’ The tribunal stated that were it not for the highly unusual personal circumstances of Dr Soffer at the time he engaged in the false and misleading conduct, together with the remorse and insight he had shown, and the admissions made, the period of suspension would have been longer.
The full decision can be found on Austlii.