ACT News

Former Canberra doctor who used MDMA suspended for two years

A former Canberra doctor who celebrated avoiding a suspension of her registration by taking MDMA has been barred from practice for two years.

The doctor had repeatedly used illegal drugs and misled medical authorities about that drug use, behaviour that amounted to professional misconduct, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal found.

The doctor worked as an intensive care registrar at Canberra's National Capital Private Hospital between September 2013 and August 2014.

In August 2014, the Medical Board of Australia heard allegations the doctor told colleagues she took illegal drugs and used a co-worker's phone to access Facebook and arrange to buy methamphetamines.

The tribunal was later unable to find these allegations were proven.

In response to the allegations, the doctor told the board she tried cannabis once in March 2014, and she believed the Facebook messages were by a former partner who was addicted to drugs, the tribunal heard.

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The board did not suspend the doctor's registration, but said she must undergo a health assessment and hair strand drug testing.

A week later, the doctor's psychiatrist told authorities she believed the doctor had a drug problem that was "likely to impact on her medical practice".

The doctor had told the psychiatrist she misled the board about her drug use, and that she was using cannabis, the tribunal heard.

On September 1, the doctor started work at Rockhampton Base Hospital.

The board met to consider again whether the doctor's registration should be suspended, and requested to collect a hair sample for drug testing.

On September 11, in a sworn affidavit the doctor said that after being told her registration was not going to be suspended, she "celebrated, drank a lot of alcohol, smoked two joints and took two MDMA capsules".

The doctor said this was a "stupid error of judgment". She denied misleading the board about her drug use and offered to have future random urine tests.

The board decided for a second time not to suspend her registration.

But it imposed conditions, including that the doctor could not use illicit drugs and that a senior practitioner must oversee her work at all times.

On September 25, authorities learnt the doctor had not told the base hospital of the new conditions on her registration. Her employment was terminated.

A few days later, detailed hair analysis revealed positive results for MDMA and methamphetamines for each month from March to September 2014.

The board then suspended the doctor's registration, saying she had "failed to demonstrate insight into the seriousness of her actions" and her regular drug use posed an "unacceptable risk to the public".

The tribunal also heard evidence the doctor suffered a mental impairment, and the doctor conceded it could be a personality disorder.

The tribunal found the doctor's behaviour amounted to professional misconduct, suspending her registration for two years from October 2014.

It imposed 16 conditions on the doctor's registration once she returned to work, including abstaining from drugs and random urine testing once a week.

The doctor must also supply a hair sample for drug testing every three months, and visit a psychologist and a psychiatrist at least once a month when she returns to practice.

The tribunal ordered the doctor to pay the medical board's costs.

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