On 8 December 2015, Patient A attended Dr Mohammed Dowla's practice for a medical examination following a referral by her GP. Whilst in Dr Dowla's consulting room, Patient A claimed that he engaged in inappropriate actions of a sexual nature towards her. On 8 January 2016, Patient A made a complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission against the practitioner and the Commission commenced disciplinary proceedings against him as a result.
Patient A was a 29 year old woman with two young children. She had on several occasions, reported to her GPs of pain in her lower abdomen. No cause had been identified for this pain but Patient A believed that it could be connected with her C-section scar. On 11 November 2015, Patient A's GP referred her to Dr Dowla (a specialist in neurology and clinical neurophysiology) for an assessment. Patient A alleged that during the consultation, Dr Dowla:
- lifted her clothing without her permission and proceeded to touch her in a sexualised manner;
- performed sexual acts on himself under his desk;
- asked her inappropriate questions of a personal nature; and
- gave her his mobile phone number.
In his statement of 11 March 2016, Dr Dowla denied the allegations. However, he admitted that he gave Patient A his phone number but claimed that this was because the patient was studying app development and he wanted her to contact him when she started making apps. At the hearing, Dr Dowla further admitted that he had examined below Patient A's C-section scar and that he had touched her thighs. However, he claimed that this was around the non-erogenous areas on the outside of her clothing.
At the hearing, Dr Dowla tried to introduce some material he found in Patient A's medical and mental health records. He argued that Patient A's credibility was diminished because she had received counselling and treatment for depression and had also been assessed to have borderline personality disorder marked by high stress levels. However, Dr Dowla's medical report of Patient A's examination stated that she was 'alert, orientated and cooperative'. Dr Dowla blamed this assessment on automated text inserted by his staff.
The Tribunal found that Patient A's account was consistent, detailed and specific. It found that Dr Dowla did not give an adequate explanation of his failure to mention in his initial statement, that he went below the patient's C-section scar and touched her thighs. This inconsistency, according to the Tribunal, strengthened Patient A's account of events.
The Tribunal also found that Dr Dowla's later admission at trial that he only touched the non-erogenous zones of Patient A's thighs, contained no indication that he gave an appropriate warning to her before touching her in those areas. The Tribunal was therefore, satisfied of the accuracy of Patient A's account and rejected the doctor's evidence that he only examined the patient only on the outside of her clothing and in non-erogenous areas.
The claim that Dr Dowla performed sexual acts on himself under his desk was not accepted. The Tribunal found that it did not have sufficient evidence to establish this to the requisite legal standard. Patient A conceded that she did not fully observe this act but inferred it from Dr Dowla's movements. The Tribunal found however, that the patient had proved that the doctor asked inappropriate personal questions without having established any appropriate clinical foundation for them.
The Tribunal also found that Dr Dowla giving the patient his personal phone number was unethical and demonstrated that the practitioner's judgment was significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner with the same level of training or experience. His explanation for giving his phone number to the patient was rejected because the patient had no relevant expert experience in IT or in medicine. Dr Dowla already had a competent IT technician in any case.
Dr Dowla was found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to the inappropriate touching of Patient A. He was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct in relation to asking the patient inappropriate personal questions and giving her his mobile phone number.
The matter was to be listed for a further hearing in relation to appropriate disciplinary orders.