Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Panel hearing summary 2020.0892
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Panel hearing summary 2020.0892

Decision of the Medical Board of Australia

Performance and professional standards panel 

Jurisdiction: Northern Territory
Date of Decision: 28 October 2020

Classification of Notification

Boundary violation - Other inappropriate relationship (non-sexual)


The Board referred an allegation to the Panel that the Practitioner failed to maintain professional boundaries by engaging in a business relationship with a patient to establish and operate a medical practice.

The Panel was of the view that the Practitioner exercised poor judgement in discussing, setting up and maintaining a business relationship with his patient. It found that it is possible for a business relationship between a medical practitioner and a patient to constitute a failure to maintain professional boundaries, even in circumstances where there is no close personal or sexual relationship. The Panel considered that it was clear from the evidence that the patient was vulnerable. The Panel noted the Practitioner’s admission that there is a power imbalance between doctors and their patients.

In addition, the Panel considered that by engaging in a business relationship with the patient, the Practitioner significantly compromised his objectivity as the patient’s general practitioner. The dual relationships that existed between the Practitioner and the patient (specifically, the relationship between general practitioner and patient, and the relationship between them as business partners), resulted in a ‘blurring’ of boundaries which exposed the patient to the risk that his clinical care may be compromised. While there is no evidence before the Panel that the Practitioner’s clinical care was compromised, this cannot be overlooked as a possible outcome in the circumstances.

The Panel was of the view that the Practitioner’s behaviour, by engaging in a business relationship with the patient, constitutes a failure to maintain professional boundaries. Further, the Panel considered that the Practitioner had contravened conduct statements 3.14, 8.2.1 and 8.12.3 of the Board’s ‘Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia’.

The Panel found that the Practitioner had behaved in a way that constitutes unprofessional conduct pursuant to section 191(1)(b)(ii) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law). The Panel decided to caution the Practitioner under section 191(3)(c) of the National Law.

The Panel accepted that the Practitioner had reflected on his actions. It was evident from the Practitioner’s verbal submissions that this matter has had a significant impact on him. The Practitioner had relocated to Queensland and was working in a group practice without the added responsibilities and stress of management. The Practitioner was emphatic that he will not engage in any further business relationships with patients. The Panel was satisfied that the Practitioner will not repeat his actions.

The Panel considered that a caution will ensure the Practitioner learns from his behaviour and does not engage in any further boundary violations, thereby ensuring that the public is adequately protected.

Page reviewed 22/08/2023