Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Medical practitioner reprimanded and fined for not complying with the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act
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Medical practitioner reprimanded and fined for not complying with the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act

12 Apr 2024

A Victorian medical practitioner has been reprimanded and fined $12,000 for paperwork that failed to comply with the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic).

In 2020, Dr Nicholas Carr certified to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board (the VARDB) that specific paperwork required under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD Act) had been completed in accordance with the VAD Act, when it had not.

Dr Carr assisted a patient to access voluntary assisted dying (VAD). The patient attended Dr Carr’s practice, along with two witnesses and a support person, to complete a document called a ‘written declaration’. The two witnesses and Dr Carr signed and dated the document, but the patient did not.

The patient’s written declaration was submitted to the VARDB along with a document called a ‘final review form’, in which Dr Carr certified the VAD request and assessment process had been completed in accordance with the VAD Act. This certification was incorrect as the patient had not signed the ‘written declaration’.

When Dr Carr submitted the application for a ‘self-administration permit’ for the patient, he certified that he had reviewed all the forms. However, he either failed to do so, or did so and failed to identify the fact the ‘written declaration’ had not been signed.

This oversight was pointed out to Dr Carr by the VADRB. Dr Carr arranged for the patient to attend his practice and sign the ‘written declaration’. Instead of making a new declaration, in front of witnesses (as required by the VAD Act), the patient signed the document that the witnesses had already signed and backdated it (so the date next to his signature matched the dates next to the witnesses’ signatures). Dr Carr submitted this document to the VADRB and the patient subsequently accessed VAD.

A review by the VARDB discovered the backdated ‘written declaration’ form, triggering an investigation in which Dr Carr made full admissions. While the VADRB did not consider Dr Carr had intended to deceive, the error was ‘too serious to be ignored’ and a notification was made to the Medical Board of Australia (the Board). Following an investigation, the Board decided to refer Dr Carr to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal).

The tribunal found Dr Carr’s behaviour constituted professional misconduct. It ordered Dr Carr be reprimanded and pay a fine of $12,000 to the Board. In making its finding, the tribunal noted that given the nature of the VAD scheme, behaviour short of strict compliance with the VAD Act was substantially below the standard expected of a practitioner of Dr Carr’s training and experience.

The tribunal acknowledged that the false declaration was not deliberate. It noted Dr Carr did not stand to benefit from his error, he had admitted his responsibility and had shown significant remorse for his actions, and put measures in place to make sure the same mistake did not happen again.

The tribunal further acknowledged that there were no concerns about the patient’s eligibility to participate in the VAD process and that if there had been, the conduct would be of a much higher order of seriousness.

Read the tribunal’s full decision on AustLII.

Page reviewed 12/04/2024