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GP anaesthetist reprimanded for serious lapse of professional standards

04 Jun 2021

A tribunal has reprimanded a GP anaesthetist for a serious lapse in professional standards that amounted to professional misconduct.

On 25 September 2019, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Peter McAllister to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) after receiving a notification about his conduct.

The Board received a notification on 19 December 2011 claiming that on 14 December 2011, Dr McAllister was the attending GP anaesthetist when a patient suffered a cardiac arrest whilst under general anaesthetic. The cardiac arrest caused global cerebral ischaemia and resulted in her being declared brain dead four days later.

It was alleged that Dr McAllister:

  1. did not properly assess the patient before administering anaesthetic
  2. administered anaesthetic to the patient in circumstances where he was aware that the pulse oximeter had not, and was not, providing a reading, and
  3. failed to create adequate clinical records about the procedure performed on the patient.

The Board started to investigate Dr McAllister’s conduct. However, the investigation was put on hold as the Coroner’s Court of Victoria was conducting an inquest into the cause of the patient’s death at the same time. The Board resumed its investigation on 26 May 2016 after the Coroner made her findings.

On 22 January 2021, the tribunal agreed with the proposed findings and determinations contained in the Agreed Statement of Facts. The tribunal agreed that Dr McAllister’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct because Dr McAllister’s conduct:

  • was substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience, and
  • consisted of more than one instance of unprofessional conduct that, when considered together, amounts to conduct that is substantially below the standard reasonably expected.

Dr McAllister cooperated throughout the proceedings and showed significant insight and remorse for his behaviour. Since the incident he has sought out further education and mentoring, implemented changes to his practice and had very positive feedback from performance assessments.

In ordering that Dr McAllister be reprimanded, the tribunal noted that the purpose of disciplinary proceedings is protective rather than punitive in nature and took account of the significant mitigating features of Dr McAllister’s circumstances. The tribunal accepted that Dr McAllister ’has done everything that could be expected of him in response to these events’.

The tribunal acknowledged the tragic consequences of Dr McAllister’s isolated errors and agreed with the Board’s submission that ‘a reprimand should not be considered a “slap over the wrist”’, rather that it tells the public, patients and other practitioners that the standards expected of a practitioner have not been met and that the practitioner has been censured.

The tribunal's decision was published on the Austlii website.

Page reviewed 4/06/2021