A rural doctor has been found guilty of professional
misconduct for giving women drugs to induce abortions.
The physician, whose name has been kept secret, was suspended
from practising for six months by the Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal and was granted another practising
certificate three days after the suspension ended.
She told the tribunal that she considered it a necessary
In one case, a patient later had to have a fallopian tube
removed when an ectopic pregnancy ruptured, according to a
decision from the tribunal.
The GP, known as Dr N, gave four women who wanted to
terminate their pregnancies misoprostol. The medication is
commonly used to treat stomach ulcers, but cannot be given to
pregnant women as it can cause miscarriages or damage to the
Dr N, who has had more than 30 years' experience, hid her
actions by not updating the patients' records.
She was reported to a conduct committee after a fifth-year
medical student, named Dr L, witnessed her giving a woman the
pills in an envelope and telling her: "I think you are having
a miscarriage and this will help it along."
The tribal decision said: "It was clear to Dr L that it was
'very understood' by Patient A that she had been given an
However, the patient was not warned of the effects of the
drug and no clinical examination was carried out.
When Dr L questioned Dr N about the medication, she said that
while it was an off-licence use of the drug, it would save
the patient "a massive ordeal associated with a trip ... for
She considered it was a "necessary service and she felt
justified in her decision to use it in Patient A's
situation", Dr L told the tribunal.
"Dr N said that she would defend her decision ... in a court
The tribunal heard there were three other cases.
In all cases she failed to record the details on the
patients' medical notes or pass on the information where
necessary to other doctors.
The tribunal said there were dangers in administering the
drug to induce an abortion because it "may not have the
desired result and a viable pregnancy may continue with a
potential risk of fetal abnormality; or that if a miscarriage
did occur, it would not be complete."
The doctor was charged with breaching the Contraception,
Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, as well as failing to
undertake proper clinical assessments and provide adequate
support to the patients given the drug.
"Dr N was acting contrary to all relevant guidelines,
especially as to safe prescribing," the tribunal said.
In her defence, Dr N told the tribunal she had been stressed
and "allowed herself to become overwhelmed by the need to
help those desperately seeking her help".
A spokesman for the Medical Council said last night that the
doctor's suspension was deferred for a month to allow her "to
order her affairs".
The suspension lapsed on November 27. Three days later, she
was granted another practising certificate, which lasts for
• Abortion must be authorised by two medically qualified and
specially approved certifying consultants.
• Councelling must be offered to the person seeing the
- Patrice Dougan