A GP who smoked cannabis daily, prescribed medication for his patient’s brother and made a fake profile to lie to the medical council about his ongoing drug tests has been suspended for two months.
The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found the practitioner, who has name suppression, behaved in a way that was negligent and likely to bring discredit to the medical profession.
He did not attend the hearing on the advice of his psychiatrist.
The doctor was yesterday censured for his professional misconduct and suspended for a further two months.
The doctor has been suspended and unable to work as a practitioner since November 2017.
In April 2015, the Health Committee ordered the doctor to be assessed by a psychiatrist, who found the doctor was dependant on cannabis and used it daily – even when he was working.
He was ordered to have regular drug tests, which had to show he had not been using cannabis for him to be able to practise again.
But on five occasions over two months, the doctor breached his professional obligations related to his regular drug tests.
“The practitioner was well aware of the requirements of the protocol and must be expected to have understood the importance of the chain of custody and specific testing laboratory protocol,” MJ Dew, QC, chair of Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal wrote in the decision.
“The repeated breaches of the protocol cannot be excused.”
Dr Todd, a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, told the Tribunal the doctor’s urine screen results showed a slight but steady increase in the doctor’s cannabis use from May 2015 for the next 11 months.
His drug then use then dipped from April – November 2016, and his urine results in March and May 2017 showed a brief period of use, likely representing single episodes of drug use.
And in March 2017, evidence of cannabis was still being found in his urine samples. He told the council he had failed the drug test as he “had been assisting his terminally ill father which had caused him significant anxiety”.
In November 2017, the practitioner was suspended from medical practice on an interim basis by the Medical Council.
The doctor also created a fake patient profile, under the name of “Martin Day”, which he
used to submit his own urine samples for drug screening to subvert the requirements of the conditions on his scope of practice.
He then prescribed medication for his patient’s brother, whom he had not medically assessed – which amounted to negligence and malpractice and was likely to bring discredit to the medical profession, the tribunal found.
Dew was critical of the doctor’s attitude, as he seemed to believe he was better placed to assess his own risk and the needs of his patients than the Medical Council, which has statutory responsibility for making those decisions.
“A practitioner who is working with his own addiction is not best placed to make decisions about the risks that they may pose to the public,” Dew wrote.
The doctor was censured for his professional misconduct and suspended for two more months. A final warning issued.
“While there is no evidence of any clinical impact as a result of the practitioner’s
addiction, the tribunal considers that his cannabis dependence must inevitably carry some
risks,” Dew wrote.
“The tribunal understands that it will require a significant effort on the practitioner’s part to achieve the conditions set by the tribunal.
“The practitioner should be in no doubt that this is a very important final opportunity for him. If he is unable to achieve abstinence and comes before the tribunal again, that may well permanently impact his career in the medical profession.”
The doctor was also ordered to pay costs of $19,054 to the Professional Conduct Committee, and $12,474 to the tribunal.
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