Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Doctor suspended for accessing a non-patient’s records

Doctor suspended for accessing a non-patient’s records

15 Nov 2022

A GP has had his registration suspended for three months after he accessed the medical records of a vulnerable woman who was not his patient, but who he was trying to protect from suspected elder abuse.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) found Dr Colin Rattray-Wood had engaged in an instance of serious misconduct, although it emphasised that the motivation behind his actions presented it ‘difficulty’ in reaching the decision.

While Dr Rattray-Wood acknowledged it was inappropriate for him to author and submit a request for the medical records of a person who was not his patient, he did so after one of his patients raised concerns an elderly woman with dementia was being subjected to elder abuse amid an ongoing hearing into her guardianship.

Although Dr Rattray-Wood never had a consultation with the elderly woman, he spoke with her on the phone and prepared a report that was used in a proceeding which stripped the woman’s stepdaughter of her guardianship.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) did not allege that Dr Rattray-Wood sought any personal gain through his actions, but the tribunal was satisfied other proven allegations showed extremely poor judgment and amounted to unprofessional conduct, including;

  • falsely asserting that the elderly woman was his patient
  • acting dishonestly by forging the woman’s signature without her knowledge or consent
  • faxing a request form to a hospital seeking a copy of the woman’s medical records.

During the June 2021 hearing, Dr Rattray-Wood substantially admitted the allegations but did not admit adding the signature to the faxed document and said a medical issue at the time meant he had no memory of the events.

The tribunal concluded in October 2022 that Dr Rattray-Wood forged the woman’s signature as part of a series of false statements while requesting her medical records. He was reprimanded, his registration was suspended for a period of three months, and conditions were imposed requiring him to undertake ethics training.

‘We wish to record that Dr Rattray-Wood’s case has presented quite some difficulty for us,’ the tribunal said.

‘His motivation was to help protect a vulnerable person from abuse. The Board does not allege that he sought any personal gain. 

‘Dr Rattray-Wood exercised extremely poor judgement on this occasion. We accept that he was experiencing personal difficulties at the time. Nevertheless, there were other courses of action that were available to him that would have been proper courses of action for him to take.

‘Ultimately, while our determinations are necessarily made to serve the interests of specific deterrence, we consider that the interests of general deterrence are especially important.’

The full decision can be accessed on Austlii.

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Page reviewed 15/11/2022