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Decision No: 98/38C
Practitioner: Dr Jacobus Petrus de la Porte
Charge Characteristics: Failure to attend
Additional Orders: Doctor denied application for name suppression:  9838cfindingssup
Full Decision: 9838cfindings
Penalty Decision: 9838cfindingssup



A CAC charged that Dr de la Porte was guilty of professional misconduct in that at approximately 4.30am on 27 March 1993 at Hokitika he failed to respond appropriately to a request to assist his patient in a medical emergency.



On 25 March 1993 the patient, a pregnant woman, saw Dr de la Porte. She believed her waters had broken. She was full term at the time. Dr de la Porte referred the patient to Grey Hospital, Greymouth. The patient was sent home from hospital on Friday 26 March 1993. In the early hours of 27 March 1993, the patient suffered pain and bleeding. At about 4.00 am - 4.30 am the patient's partner went to Dr de la Porte's house. The door was answered either by Dr de la Porte or his wife. The patient's partner explained the situation and said he believed his wife was having the baby. The patientís partner was advised that Dr de la Porte was not on duty and the patient should be taken to hospital. A request to come to the patient's home was refused. On the patient's partner returning home he found the baby had delivered without assistance. He went to a neighbour's house where he contacted the duty doctor, who came to their house.



The Tribunal found Dr de la Porte was guilty of conduct unbecoming a medical practitioner and that conduct reflects adversely on his fitness to practise medicine.

The Tribunal was unable to make a finding on the issue of whether Dr de la Porte answered the door or his wife. However there was no dispute that the patient's partner called at the doctor's residence and that he conveyed to whoever answered the door his partner's predicament with respect to the imminence of the baby's birth. That information was imparted to Dr de la Porte immediately either in person or by his wife. Dr de la Porte accepted that the decision not to attend the patient was ultimately his responsibility alone.

The Tribunal concluded that the nature of the message imparted by the patient's partner was sufficient to indicate that the condition of the patient was a medical emergency for the following reasons:

  • She was a patient of Dr de la Porte. The doctor/patient relationship gives rise to a duty to take reasonable care.
  • Dr de la Porte acknowledged the patient was in labour, having been in labour since midday on 25 March 1993.
  • Dr de la Porte's wife acknowledged she was told about the patient's bleeding. She also genuinely thought the patient was in labour.

Dr de la Porte having been made fully aware that the patient had been in labour for 36 hours should have responded to what was clearly a medical emergency.

The Tribunal, applying the test for Professional misconduct established in Ongley v Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee [1984] 4 NZAR 369, found that Dr de la Porte was not guilty of professional misconduct. However the Tribunal found that Dr de la Porte's failure to respond to the request to assist the patient in the birth of her child was conduct unbecoming a medical practitioner and that conduct reflects adversely on his fitness to practise medicine.

The Tribunal discussed the meaning of the rider under section 109(1)(c) of the Act and applied A Complaints Assessment Committee v Mantell (Doogue DCJ, 7 May 1999, District Court Auckland NP 4533/98).



In a supplementary decision, the Tribunal ordered that Dr de la Porte be censured, pay a fine of $350 (max $1,000) pay $7,401 towards the costs of the hearing and inquiry. The Tribunal also ordered publication of the hearing in the New Zealand Medical Journal.