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Tribunal upholds Medical Board's decision to take immediate action to suspend doctor

07 Oct 2021

A tribunal has upheld the Medical Board of Australia’s (the Board) decision to suspend the registration of medical practitioner Dr Claire Dielenberg by way of immediate action.

It followed notifications alleging she breached sexual boundaries with a patient and prescribed him high quantities of Schedule 4 and 8 medications.

The Board took immediate action to suspend Dr Dielenberg’s registration in April 2021 after it received four notifications concerning her conduct. These included allegations she was in a sexual relationship with a patient and had prescribed him excessive quantities of Schedule 4 and 8 medications, including Oxycodone, Diazepam, Tramadol, Panadeine Forte and Buprenorphine patches. It was also alleged Dr Dielenberg inappropriately used her position as a medical practitioner to seek clinical information about her patient from a treatment facility and state to a police officer that her patient was unfit to be in custody and should be released.

The Board took immediate action to suspend her registration while it continued its investigation into the matter. Dr Dielenberg appealed the Board’s decision and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) heard the application for review in August 2021.

During the hearing, the tribunal heard Dr Dielenberg met the patient online and began a sexual relationship with him in December 2019. The patient lived with her for a period of time and despite evidence he was drug dependent, she prescribed him large quantities of medications including prescribing 450 Ritalin tablets in 13 days.

Dr Dielenberg accepted her prescribing to the patient was inappropriate but claimed the conduct was only in relation to one patient who had verbally and physically coerced her into prescribing the medications. She submitted the proportionate response would be conditions on her registration restricting the prescribing of Schedule 4 and 8 drugs. She sought to have the Board’s decision to impose immediate action set aside and to be awarded legal costs.

On 13 September 2021, the tribunal confirmed the Board’s decision to suspend Dr Dielenberg’s registration by way of immediate action. The tribunal noted Dr Dielenberg’s prescribing and intimate relationship with the patient demonstrated a significant lack of judgement and her failure to seek support to end the treating relationship supported the view that she posed a serious risk to others beyond this patient.

Her conduct occurred over a 12-month period and could not be considered a momentary lapse. The tribunal found that Dr Dielenberg’s communication with Clinical Forensic Medical Services and the ACT Police regarding her patient was at best another serious lack of judgement on her part, or at worst, a deliberate attempt to mislead others involved in managing and treating her patient after his arrest.

The tribunal considered that placing conditions on her registration would not provide adequate public protection, finding suspension of Dr Dielenberg’s registration by way of immediate action the minimum regulatory action necessary to protect the public.

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

Page reviewed 7/10/2021