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Doctor charged after patient who became lover dies of overdose

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Author Topic: Doctor charged after patient who became lover dies of overdose  (Read 57 times)
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« on: February 09, 2009, 12:27:11 pm »

An Auckland doctor has been charged with professional misconduct over her care of a patient who became her lover and died of a morphine overdose.

The doctor, whose name is suppressed, prescribed and supplied what are said to be large doses of morphine to the man, a technical specialist at her clinic.

"Many of the factual contentions in the particulars of the charge are not disputed," said the doctor's lawyer, Harry Waalkens, QC.

"That is to say primarily, this case focuses upon threshold," he told the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal today at the start of a hearing expected to last two weeks.

"The issue for the tribunal will be whether these matters reach the threshold of being so serious that they warrant disciplinary sanctions.

"We say [this] is not such a case."

The prosecuting lawyer, Mike Heron, said a summary from the Ministry of Health showed the doctor supplied the patient with 755 ampoules of injectible morphine between January and September, 2006. They were either 10mg or 30mg ampoules.

She also subscribed 60 10mg ampoules and 872 morphine tablets and capsules.

The hearing heard how the patient often injected himself with morphine.

She began treating him in August, 2005, for back pain.

In July 2006, a sexual relationship began between the doctor and patient.

Mr Heron said the doctor had failed to transfer the patient "appropriately and sufficiently" to another GP as required by the Medical Council, before the relationship began.

But Mr Waalkens said that the doctor had transferred the patient's care to another GP in May, 2006.

The patient died in September, 2006.

Mr Heron said the coroner's autopsy report affirmed the main cause of death to be "the combined toxicity of morphine, methadone, tramadol and diazepam".

A report by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research found the level of morphine in his blood indicated a morphine related death.

"There was no doubt at all that [he] was abusing drugs," Mr Heron said.


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