Medical Board of Australia - Tribunal cancels doctor’s registration and removes him from practice for at least eight years
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Tribunal cancels doctor’s registration and removes him from practice for at least eight years

24 May 2024

A tribunal has reprimanded a medical practitioner, Dr Atheer Hmood, cancelled his registration, disqualified him from applying for registration for a period of eight years, and prohibited him from providing any health service which involves physical contact with a female, when he is alone with a female, for eight years.  

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The orders follow a finding that:

  • Dr Hmood made unnecessary and inappropriate physical contact with five female patients when performing a medical examination; and that the physical contact was for a sexual purpose; and
  • that this behaviour constitutes professional misconduct.

In June 2019, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Hmood to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) following a criminal investigation and prosecution where it was alleged that Dr Hmood had indecently assaulted eight female patients one of whom was aged 15 at the time.  Dr Hmood was either acquitted, or the prosecutions were discontinued. However, there was sufficient evidence for the Board to proceed. 

In January 2020, the Board referred a further matter about Dr Hmood to the tribunal regarding Dr Hmood’s behaviour towards a ninth female patient. The tribunal ultimately considered all matters together. 

The nine allegations were about Dr Hmood’s behaviour when performing a chest auscultation examination. The allegations required the tribunal to consider whether:

  • each patient had given informed consent for a chest auscultation examination 
  • Dr Hmood made inappropriate and unnecessary physical contact with each patient during the examination, and
  • the contact was made for a sexual and/or inappropriate and/or non-clinical purpose.

Dr Hmood denied that he had made inappropriate or unnecessary physical contact with the patients, and denied he had acted with a sexual or inappropriate or non-clinical purpose. An eight-day contested hearing was held before the tribunal in September 2022. 

On 19 December 2022, the tribunal decided that five of the nine allegations (relating to five of the patients) were proven. It found there was a clinical indication to perform a chest examination for each patient and Dr Hmood had obtained informed consent to conduct the examination for each patient. However, for the five allegations it found proven, it found that:

  • each examination involved inappropriate and unnecessary physical contact with the patient, and
  • the physical contact was for a sexual purpose.

Following the tribunal’s decision, the Board removed Dr Hmood from practice. On 9 January 2023, Dr Hmood gave an undertaking not to practise as a medical practitioner, and on 6 February, the Board formally suspended Dr Hmood’s registration, pending the tribunal’s final decision in the matter. 

On 29 May 2023, the tribunal held a hearing on whether the proven conduct was professional misconduct, and what orders should be made with respect to Dr Hmood and his registration. The tribunal handed down its decision on 15 September 2023. 

The tribunal found that Dr Hmood has behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct, in that his conduct was inconsistent with being a fit and proper person to hold registration as a medical practitioner. 

The tribunal said Dr Hmood’s conduct was a significant departure from the proper standards medical practitioners must comply with, in circumstances where female patients entrust themselves to doctors for medical examinations that may require intimate physical contact which they otherwise would not accept from doctors.

In ordering that Dr Hmood’s registration be cancelled, the tribunal observed that he exploited the power imbalance between a doctor and patient in carrying out examinations with a sexual purpose, breaching the trust reposed in him as a registered medical practitioner by his patients and the public. 

In ordering the eight-year disqualification period, the tribunal acknowledged the delay in these matters coming to hearing. It noted the criminal proceedings that preceded this matter, and the tribunal’s limited availability during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the tribunal said it was important, by way of general deterrence, to let other practitioners know there are severe consequences for conduct of this kind. It observed that Dr Hmood’s conduct had adversely affected five vulnerable patients, and that he had not shown insight into, or remorse for his actions which the tribunal found to be deliberate and not accidental.

It otherwise considered that given the circumstances of the case, it was appropriate to make a broad prohibition order. The order prohibits Dr Hmood from providing any health service for a period of 8 years.  However, it limited the operation of the order to circumstances in which Dr Hmood is alone with a female patient. 

Read the tribunal’s full decision (15 September 2023) on AustLII regarding determinations.

Read the tribunal’s judgement (19 December 2022, corrected 22 December 2022) regarding findings and orders.

Page reviewed 24/05/2024