A doctor who accepted $150,000 from an eccentric dying
patient has escaped sanctions by moving to Australia.
Dr Jonathan Graham Wright was found to have breached
professional and ethical standards when he accepted the money
from terminal cancer sufferer Cornelis Soeters, 81.
His son, Paul Soeters, 46, who uncovered the secret payment,
said it "doesn't seem right" that the doctor - who also has
two previous stains on his professional record - was able to
avoid restrictions because he had moved to Queensland before
the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal ruling.
Wright, from Christchurch, was suspended for six months from
April this year, and ordered to be supervised for two years
afterwards, with further restrictions including completing an
ethics course. He was also fined $7500 plus costs.
However, the tribunal ruling is only valid in New Zealand,
and does not affect Wright's ability to practise in Cairns,
where he moved in 2012.
"I'm not trying to ruin the man's livelihood or anything, but
that just didn't seem right at all," Paul Soeters said.
In evidence to the tribunal, Wright said he had informed his
current employer of the disciplinary action.
No complaints had been laid against him in Australia, the
tribunal said, and its decision would be passed to its
Australian counterpart. It is then up to the Australian
Health Practitioner Regulation Agency whether to impose
Cornelis Soeters was given weeks to live after a cancer
diagnosis in October 2011.
The "stubborn" and eccentric bachelor cashed in shares,
donating $100,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation and
transferring $150,000 into an account in Wright's name to
spend on the health needs of the local community.
Wright said his patient had been adamant he accept the money,
and keep it secret. However, Soeters' son discovered bank
documents detailing the transaction shortly before his death.
The family were "relieved" by the decision, Paul Soeters
said, but felt "a doctor should be above" pressure from a
patient to accept such sums.
"The fine, the outcome, is not as important as the fact that
it was noted and that he won't do it again. That's more
important to me ... so that people are aware that this does
"The population is ageing and there's more and more people in
that situation, you want to think that the professionals you
deal with are professional ... they should be beyond any sort
of wrong-doing or suspicion," he said.
The tribunal also heard Wright had a previous conviction for
claiming false expenses of $18,300 while working with the
Accident Compensation Corporation. Wright was also censured
and fined for over-prescribing diet pills to a patient in
- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ