19 Jan 2024
A Victorian pharmacist has had his registration cancelled and been disqualified from applying for registration for 12 months for inappropriate behaviour with three female clients and inappropriate dispensing.
In 2019, the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) received two separate notifications about Mr Mina Tawadros – one in November and again in December. In February 2020, the Board took immediate action and accepted an undertaking from Mr Tawadros not to practise while they investigated. One month later, the Board referred Mr Tawadros to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) alleging professional misconduct involving:
In November 2019, Mr Tawadros failed to supply a prescribed medicine to a patient for the treatment of her narcolepsy. Mr Tawadros substituted Vitamin D, which looked similar to the medicine prescribed, and did not tell the patient that he had done so. Not long after he had made the swap, she had an incident of suddenly falling asleep while driving. There was evidence from her treating doctor that Mr Tawadros was undertaking an experiment with the patient’s medicine.
A second client’s witness statement outlined instances of crossing professional boundaries, including sexual. The woman, who had complex health issues, said that on two separate occasions in 2015, Mr Tawadros had delivered medicine to her home. Both times, he engaged in personal, social and non-clinical conversation, including hugging her. She stopped using the pharmacy where Mr Tawadros worked for nearly two years.
In 2018, when she started getting her prescriptions filled by Mr Tawadros again, she accepted a Facebook friend request which she thought was from the pharmacy. He began sending intimate and sexual Facebook messages to her. In her statement, she said she felt that Mr Tawadros had ’abused his position of power over her health as her pharmacist for his own benefit’.
Around the same time, in 2015, a third female client accepted a Facebook friend request from Mr Tawadros. He asked her out on several dates, which she declined, and insisted on delivering her medicines to her home, despite her insisting she would collect them from the pharmacy. After that, she stopped attending the pharmacy for about 18 months.
In 2018, she needed to use the pharmacy again for daily medicine dosing, at which point Mr Tawadros started sending her Facebook messages again. After telling him his behaviour was unprofessional, she stopped attending the pharmacy.
Mr Tawadros behaved in a similar way with a fourth female client, who had been attending the pharmacy since 2012 for mental health and sleep issues. In 2018, Mr Tawadros asked her to become Facebook friends and for a year sent her personal and sexual Facebook messages. During this time, when she went into the pharmacy, he would sometimes kiss and hug her. He told her she could sell one of her medicines on the street and in early 2019, he dispensed double the quantity of Panadeine Forte prescribed for her.
In early 2019, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital as she was so stressed by what Mr Tawadros had said to her. In her witness statement, she said she felt ashamed and that he had exploited her vulnerable state for his own sexual gratification.
The Board submitted that Mr Tawadros’s conduct, which was directed towards vulnerable, single women with complex medical needs, was inconsistent with the codes of conduct and ethics for the profession and exploited the power imbalance between himself and his patients.
The tribunal found that Mr Tawadros's conduct amounted to professional misconduct and ordered:
The tribunal also noted that for Mr Tawadros to be registered in the future, he would need to satisfy the Board that he was a fit and proper person to practice as a pharmacist.
Read the tribunal’s full decision on AustLII.