"Predatory" psychiatrist loses license for sexual advance on patient
June 14, 2012
A ''predatory'' doctor who propositioned a patient and prescribed her an inappropriate amount of an addictive psychoactive drug has been found guilty of professional misconduct.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has cancelled the disgraced psychiatrist's registration, banning him from practising medicine until the authorities say otherwise.
But a suppression order still prevents The Canberra Times from naming the man, despite the tribunal's ruling published yesterday.
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The tribunal heard the doctor's inappropriate sexual advances left his vulnerable victim out of her depth and afraid.
And in the aftermath of the incident, the woman was hospitalised following an overdose of Xanax and alcohol - ''to block things out but not to kill herself''.
Members Chris Chenoweth, Thomas Faunce and Jane Greagg ultimately found the doctor was ''not in a fit and proper state to continue practice as a psychiatrist''.
They heard evidence from several expert witnesses, including one who described the man's behaviour as ''seductive, predatory, manipulative and persistent''.
The doctor started treating the woman in late 2008 and, a year later, allegedly told her he would prescribe her the psychoactive drug Xanax.
Psychiatrist Danny Sullivan, who gave expert evidence, said the prescription was ''concerning'' in the circumstances, considering the drug was prone to abuse. The doctor came to the victim's house in December 2009 with the prescription.
The woman told the tribunal the man told her he'd developed feelings for her and wanted a relationship.
She said she told him to call her the next day, in a bid to avoid dealing with the situation in front of her daughter.
The patient said he called the next day and she turned him down, at which point he said, ''I love you [name], it won't just be sex, it will be the real thing, a relationship.''
The tribunal wrote in the judgment: ''Far from being flattered and simply refusing the advances, she became fearful of the doctor.
''Her evidence was that the revelation by the doctor of his feelings caused her severe stress and 'blanking out' because of the enormity of the issues that the discussions raised.''
In his evidence, the doctor admitted he developed feelings for the woman, but denied they were sexual.
''[He] maintained that because his thoughts were romantic that this could not constitute a breach of the code of ethics,'' the tribunal members said.
The doctor also defended the decision to prescribe the woman 150 tablets with two repeats - the maximum allowed for a first prescription.
The woman complained to a politician about the man's behaviour and the matter was referred on to the Health Services Commissioner and the ACT Medical Board.
He has been suspended from seeing patients since September.
In scathing testimony, Michael Diamond, a veteran of professional misconduct cases, said the psychiatrist showed ''predatory, exploitative and self-serving'' traits. ''My interpretation of the accounts of the events, albeit conflicted, is that the contact with the patient was seductive, predatory, manipulative and persistent,'' he said.
But another witness, a consulting psychiatrist giving evidence for the doctor, said Dr Diamond's report was ''unbalanced, brutal and lacks any compassion''.
Leslie Drew, a psychiatrist with five decades of experience, said the doctor had provided treatment for many people who might otherwise miss out.
The tribunal members found the victim a more reliable witness than the accused doctor, describing his evidence as ''at times evasive and contradictory''.
They found his Xanax prescription, his declarations of love and his steps to address his feelings fell ''substantially below the standard expected'' of him.
They agreed the man's actions amounted to professional misconduct and cancelled his registration, leaving it for the board to decide if and when he is fit to practise again.
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