Several patients of a doctor who killed himself after being charged with indecent assault are planning to sue his estate for compensation.
Rogue neurologist Dr Andrew Churchyard practised in Victoria, with ABC News reporting that he allegedly molested more than 100 men between 2007, when an initial complaint was lodged, and his suicide last year.
Both Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne, where Dr Churchyard practised, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) have come under fire for mishandling the situation.
Sexual misconduct allegations
One claimant said he experienced a pattern of abuse at the hands of Dr Churchyard between 2009 and 2015, during which time the medical practitioner gradually groomed him.
Eventually, the neurologist convinced the patient to undress and touched his genitals, claiming it was a relaxation technique for anxiety.
Dr Churchyard was allowed to continue practising for seven months after he was charged for assaulting a patient. The AHPRA ordered that a chaperone should be present for consultations with male patients, but the doctor was not required to inform people why he was being supervised.
The claimant alleging that he suffered six years of abuse from Dr Churchyard said he never saw a chaperone, despite the neurologist supposedly having one from May 28 2015 onwards. The patient had appointments with the doctor until July that year.
Fairfax Media said there were now nine patients who looked likely to join the lawsuit against Dr Churchyard’s estate, with Cabrini Hospital and the AHPRA also potentially facing claims.
AHPRA’s independent review of chaperoning
Last year, the AHPRA defended its actions after the scandal came to light.
“Chaperoning restrictions impose a set of rigorous requirements, and if a practitioner does not meet these conditions the board could take further action, including suspension from practice,” the organisation stated.
“The chaperoning restrictions are published in full, publicly, on the online Register of practitioners.”
However, the AHPRA launched an independent review alongside the Medical Board of Australia to explore the use of chaperones as an interim protective measure while doctors are investigated for sexual misconduct.
The review concluded that chaperones were a paternalistic and outdated practice. Instead, the authors recommended that a specialist board committee place immediate restrictions on doctors after an assessment of the allegations.
These restrictions could include a suspension from practice, prohibitions on patient contact or preventing doctors from treating people of a particular gender.
Have you been the victim of institutional sexual assault or abuse? Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers may be able to help, so please contact us today.