Medical Board of Australia - Boundary transgressions sees medical practitioner’s registration cancelled
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Boundary transgressions sees medical practitioner’s registration cancelled

03 Jul 2024

A West Australian tribunal has ordered a medical practitioner’s registration be cancelled following a finding he transgressed professional and sexual boundaries with three of his female patients. The practitioner was also disqualified from applying for registration for 12 months.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Benjamin Saunders to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (the tribunal) which found he had not complied with the Board’s Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia (the code of conduct) and Guidelines: Sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship (the guidelines), and behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct.

Over a period of approximately eight months, Dr Saunders sent sexually explicit text messages, voicemails and photos to a female patient. When the practice where he was working made a mandatory notification to Ahpra, Dr Saunders contacted the patient’s partner and threatened to release intimate images of the patient if she didn’t withdraw her witness statement.

Around the same time, Dr Saunders was exchanging thousands of personal calls and text messages with another female patient. When this came to light during Ahpra’s investigation, he tried, unsuccessfully, to coerce her into retracting her statement.

The third patient was a woman who Dr Saunders started a romantic relationship with shortly after (around two months) she was no longer his patient. The tribunal found that even though the former patient was the person who initiated the relationship, Dr Saunders’ behaviour was in breach of both the code of conduct and guidelines because of the short period of time between when the treating relationship ended, and the personal relationship began.

The tribunal reprimanded Dr Saunders, ordered his registration be cancelled and disqualified him from applying for registration for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay $45,000 in costs.

Read the tribunal’s full decision on the eCourts Portal of Western Australia.

Page reviewed 3/07/2024