On 2 January 2019 the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) found that Dr Khan, a registered medical practitioner, was guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
The Tribunal adjourned the hearing to 28 February 2019, where both parties made submissions as to protective orders. Last week, order were made to cancel Dr Khan's registration and prohibit him from applying for re-registration for a period of three years.
The judgment delivered on 2 January 2019 set out the particulars of Dr Khan's misconduct. The allegations related to inappropriate dealings with female patients, some who sought treatment from the general practitioner for mental health issues. The inappropriate conduct included:
- inappropriate text messaging and phone contact with female patients over a period of approximately three months, including text messages which were flirtatious, salacious and of an entirely personal nature;
- inappropriate touching of a patient during a breast examination;
- prescribing a number of drugs without clinical justification; and
- inappropriate Medicare claims.
The Tribunal described the conduct as falling significantly below the expected standards of a medical practitioner and indefensible. Dr Khan raised in his defence, his own mental illness, including depression, alcohol abuse and loneliness. The Tribunal stated that those diagnoses do not explain or justify his conduct in relation to the patients referred to in each of the complaints.
The Tribunal found that because Dr Khan came into contact with these persons only because of his position as a general practitioner the conduct of the respondent was particularly egregious. The volume of the messaging to certain patients suggested that the practitioner was persistent and intrusive in his approach, and failed to understand that his conduct was inappropriate.
Consequently, Dr Khan was found to have engaged in both unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
The Tribunal's more recent decision related to the sanctions that were to be imposed on Dr Khan. The Tribunal had regard to the purpose of such sanctions, and mitigating and aggravating features of the conduct. The Tribunal acknowledged that at the time of the sanction hearing, Dr Khan appeared to understand that his conduct was unprofessional. Central to the formulation of sanctions, were a number of aggravating features of the conduct including:
- the patients featured in the complaints were up to 20 years younger than Dr Khan;
- Dr Khan made false allegations against persons in the patients' lives, such as saying that their boyfriends were cheating on them;
- in some instances, Dr Khan sent hundreds of text messages to his patient;
- some patients were suffering from mental illnesses and were particularly vulnerable, including a patient who had attempted suicide;
- the patients were currently being treated by Dr Khan, yet he failed to consider the impact of his conduct on his patients' mental states.
Further to this, although Dr Khan professed to understand that his conduct had been inappropriate, he did not undertake any personal therapy or seek assistance in relation to his own vulnerabilities. There was no clear evidence that Dr Khan had taken any steps to address his ethical deficits.
The Tribunal was satisfied that Dr Khan is currently not a fit and proper person to be registered as a medical practitioner under the National Law. Having regard to the protective function of a sanction, the Tribunal ordered that Dr Khan's registration as a medical practitioner be cancelled and that Dr Khan not apply for reregistration for a period of three years from the date of this decision.