|Charge Characteristics:|| Intent to
defraud by a false pretence
Misuse of drugs
Excess breath alcohol while driving a vehicle
|Additional Orders:||Doctor granted interim name
Clarifying Order - Doctor granted interim name suppression: 0063chearpriminalterlaw
Order with reasons - Doctor granted interim name suppression:
Granted permanent name suppression order: 0063cfindingslaw
The Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal ("the Tribunal") upheld a charge, brought by a Complaints Assessment Committee of the Medical Council of New Zealand against a Doctor, alleging that the Doctor had been convicted of committing two offences against the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and one offence against the Land Transport Act 1988, that each offence was punishable by imprisonment for a term of three months or longer and that the circumstances of the offences reflect adversely on the fitness of the Doctor to practise medicine. The charge was admitted and the Doctor admitted the offences reflected adversely on his fitness to practise medicine. Therefore the issue for the Tribunal to address was one of penalty.
Years before the offences were committed the Doctor became addicted to
pethidine and morphine and was subsequently suspended from practising as a
doctor for four months. When he returned to practice he voluntarily
restricted himself from prescribing controlled drugs. Nevertheless,
between then and the year in which he committed the offences, he
intermittently administered morphine to himself. Early in that year he
became depressed. He stole controlled drug prescription forms from another
practitioner and used that practitioner's personalised stamp to indicate
on the prescription forms that they had been authorised by that
Using those forms, he obtained a number of morphine ampoules and pethidine ampoules the contents of which he administered to himself intravenously. In explanation (to the police) he said that at the time of the offending he was 'burnt out, isolated, under work pressure and stressed". He admitted he was an addict but said he had not supplied the controlled drugs to anyone else. After that offending was detected the Doctor took part in the Salvation Army's Bridge Programme.
When he was sentenced by the Court on the Misuse of Drugs Act offences his name was not suppressed and extensive publicity, in relation to his appearance in court and his addiction, then followed. About two months later he was convicted on the charge under the Land Transport Act 1998 which alleged that he had driven a motor vehicle on a road while the proportion of alcohol in his breath exceeded 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
Following his arrest on that offence, the Doctor admitted himself to the Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer for a five-week course of inpatient treatment. The Health Committee of the Medical Council of New Zealand arranged for him to be independently assessed and subsequently approval was given for him to resume work under a comprehensive voluntary undertaking with the Health Committee. He had been drug-free from the time of his admission to the Hanmer course, and this had been able to be verified. He appeared before the Tribunal in October 2000.
After hearing evidence and considering medical reports and submissions, the Tribunal was satisfied that the Doctor was currently highly motivated to grapple with his addiction and to refrain from the use of narcotics and alcohol. The Tribunal recognised the extent of the efforts which he had made since his discharge from Hanmer. However the Tribunal considered that his current state of good health was fragile and that there was some risk that he might again resort to drugs or alcohol if he became sufficiently stressed. It also considered that there was manifestly a need for continued steps to be taken to monitor his ongoing progress and to subject him to continued oversight in his own and his patients' interests.
The Tribunal noted that it had to have regard not only to the public interest but also to the interests of the Doctor. It had to balance against its view of the seriousness of the conduct which gave rise to the convictions the fact that all three offences were attributable to long-standing addictions.
The Tribunal, being satisfied that the Doctor was competent to practise medicine, made a decision which had regard to the need for deterrence but was also designed to be constructive and protect the health and safety of members of the public by putting in place appropriate safeguards. It considered that it was in the public interest, as well as the Doctor's interests, that he should be permitted to continue to practise subject to conditions - there would be very serious consequences, for both the Doctor's patients and his practice associate, if his name were to be removed from the register or he were to be suspended.
The Tribunal ordered that the Doctor be censured, that he pay 45% of the costs and expenses of and incidental to the inquiry by the CAC and the hearing by the Tribunal and that for three years from the date of its decision he could practise only in accordance with 18 conditions set out in the decision (0063cfindingslaw). For reasons which were set out in detail in the decision, he was granted permanent suppression of his name and any particulars which might tend to identify him or his place of practice, but publication of a notice in the New Zealand Medical Journal, with those particulars omitted, was ordered.
In its decision the Tribunal noted that if the Doctor breached any order of the Tribunal, including the order that he could practise only in accordance with the conditions in question for the next three years, he could be charged under the Medical Practitioners Act 1995 with breaching an order of the Tribunal. If he were charged the Tribunal had the power to make an order for his registration to be suspended until the charge had been determined.