The New South Wales Court of Appeal has upheld its decision to cancel the medical registration of a doctor who suffered from a paranoid disorder.
A tribunal had previously ruled that the woman was unfit for the role as health practitioner due to the illness, although expert witnesses disagreed over whether a formal diagnosis could be made.
While the appellant was not accused of medical negligence, her work as an endocrinologist was brought into question by five of her colleagues. They wrote a letter to the Medical Council of New South Wales saying the level of care the doctor provided was not up to standard.
The document specifically highlighted issues with the doctor's correspondence with referring general practitioners and patients between 2009 and 2010.
Any medical practitioners who breach their duty of care to patients can find themselves at the centre of a negligence claim. Common complaints include the failure to adequately inform people of the risks of surgery and late diagnoses of illnesses.
Upon receipt of the letter, the appellant wrote a response that made serious allegations against a number of colleagues. These included that her receptionist had rewritten her correspondence and also occasionally forged her signature.
She also claimed one of her colleagues had accessed her patient files without her permission and removed hundreds of documents.
Original decision and appeal
The Occupational Division of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal cancelled the appellant's medical registration after siding with an expert witness that diagnosed the woman with a paranoid disorder.
According to the specialist, her illness was apparent through ongoing disputes with the legal system, constant career interruptions and interactions with fellow residents of her apartment building.
On appeal, the woman's lawyers argued on several grounds. These included that the tribunal erred in ruling she had a paranoid disorder and was mistaken in exercising its power to cancel her registration.
Specifically, the appellant disputed the tribunal's decision to side with a medical expert who said she had a mental impairment, rather than her own psychiatrist who claimed there was no evidence of this.
However, the appellate judges rejected the appeal, suggesting that her psychiatrist was potentially biased and working to assist his patient. Conversely, the other witness offered a more independent assessment.
As such, the registration cancellation remained in place and the appellant must now pay the $14,000 costs of the respondent – the Health Care Complaints Commission.