A doctor living in Dunedin has been censured after
prescribing Class C drugs, using false names and details, to
feed her opiate addiction.
At a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in
Dunedin yesterday, the doctor, who has permanent name
suppression, had conditions imposed on her medical practice
for when she returns to work.
She was also fined 15% of the cost of the case, $6600, and
was required to pay half to the tribunal and half to the New
Zealand Medical Council's professional conduct committee
which brought the charges.
The doctor, who has not practised in Dunedin, admitted two
charges relating to prescribing prescription medicines and
controlled drugs, when not for a patient under her care, on
54 occasions between May 2011 and August 2012 and obtaining
and consuming drugs of dependence, mostly codeine phosphate,
without proper medical oversight.
She used fictitious identities and addresses and dishonestly
used genuine identities, as well as her own identity, on the
The tribunal found the charges amounted to professional
The doctor gave evidence at the hearing, saying she developed
a dependence on codeine after taking it for a bad toothache
in 2006 and then to help her sleep.
In 2011, she started writing prescriptions at work under
family members' names or variations of those names and also
obtained other prescription drugs.
When she was confronted about her prescribing by a medical
superior, she admitted her conduct, and reported it to the
Medical Council and police.
In May 2012, she was referred to an addiction programme,
which she completed.
She received police diversion after attending a district
court to answer charges relating to the dishonest
The doctor lost her job, personally disappointed her family
and let herself down.
''I have suffered immensely for my conduct,'' she said.
She had not practised since then, but was now keen to return
to being a doctor, probably in an area where she would not be
required to prescribe hard drugs, and promised to work with
the council's medical committee to do so.
Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) counsel Simon Mount said
the doctor obtained thousands of codeine tablets for her
personal use as her opiate addiction spiralled out of
The behaviour was a clear case of professional misconduct, as
codeine was a Class C controlled drug and prescribing it for
herself was a clear abuse of the power doctors had to
It was clearly inconsistent with medical legislation and
codes of practice, as well as criminal law, he said.
As the doctor had removed herself from practice for the past
two years, the committee was not seeking a suspension, as was
usual in such cases, but there needed to be conditions put on
her practice as her actions were premeditated, sustained,
breached practitioners' right to prescribe, breached her
employers' trust and posed a risk to patients, although no
complaints about her behaviour had been laid.
''It is a very serious matter when a doctor misuses their
powers to prescribe.''
Harry Waalkens QC, counsel for the doctor, said the doctor,
described as highly skilled and competent, was the victim in
this case and had done everything she could to comply with
authorities, unlike other doctors in similar situations who
lied or tried to cover up their offending.
As the offending was linked to a health issue he did not
believe she should face the fines and costs the PCC asked
''This is the darkest day of her professional life,'' he
Her former employers had said she was a good doctor and they
would re-employ her.
Censure was a reasonable penalty but anything else would be
''harsh or unreasonable'', he said.
Giving the tribunal's decision, chairwoman Maria Dew, of
Auckland, said the doctor would only be able to practise
again under the following conditions: she was prohibited from
prescribing all controlled drugs for two years; she was not
permitted to work in sole practice for two years; she had to
accept medical supervision as required by the council's
health committee; she was required to advise future employers
of the decision for the next three years; she was required to
register with and maintain a relationship with a general
practitioner for three years; she was to undergo drug testing
as deemed appropriate by the health committee; and to comply
with all requirements set by the health committee.