Thursday, February 07, 2008

Complaints on the rise against psychiatrists and other doctors

We would like to see a breakdown of the complaint statistics by specialty. There is evidence supporting the notion that there are more sexual misconduct complaints against psychiatrists, for example. A report from Victoria, Australia

Formal complaints about Victorian doctors have jumped significantly, and the number deemed unfit to practice due to serious health issues has also risen, a report has revealed.

A psychiatrist who had sex with two vulnerable patients and a doctor who prescribed illegal levels of morphine were among those to be struck off for serious misconduct.

Figures tabled in State Parliament show there was a 9% jump in professional conduct complaints to the Medical Practitioners Board — from 582 in 2006 to 633 last year.

And 70 doctors were investigated over serious health concerns such as psychiatric illness or drug and alcohol abuse — up from 59 the previous year.

A doctor who made sexual advances to a teenage patient he was counselling for a serious eating disorder was allowed to keep his licence. And a GP who sexually harassed a staff member, putting his hand down her jumper to touch her breast, also escaped with a reprimand.

In a tragic case at the Royal Children's Hospital, a trainee doctor gave a four-week old baby 10 times the appropriate concentration of glucose in a drip, causing irreversible brain damage. The board allowed her to continue practising and ordered her to undergo counselling, feeling she was "genuinely remorseful."

In 16 cases finalised at formal hearings, 15 doctors were found to have engaged in serious professional misconduct. Four were struck off, one had their licence suspended and 10 were either cautioned, reprimanded or ordered to undergo counselling.

The board president, Dr Joanna Flynn, said the rise in complaints was consistent with national and international trends. "It is not unexpected and may reflect gradual awareness within the community of the board and its role in protecting the public," she said.

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