Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have a duty of care to maintain the safety of their patients. However, as the below case showcases, medical negligence can often prevail, leaving patients more vulnerable than ever.
Background of the defendant
The defendant, who was aged 41 years at the time of the incident, obtained a qualification as an enrolled nurse in 2009, and registered in this position in 2011. Three years later, he commenced work in the mental health ward of Coffs Harbour Hospital, having previously worked in different departments of the same medical practice.
Background of the plaintiff
The plaintiff, who had recently turned 20 years at the time of proceedings and shall be referred to as Patient A, was admitted to Coffs Harbour Hospital in a suicidal state in October 2014. She remained an in-patient for three months. It was here she was first introduced to the defendant, although she was not his assigned patient.
What happened between the defendant and Patient A?
During her time at the hospital, Patient A spent time with the defendant and from here they formed a personal relationship. On the day of her discharge (January 23, 2015), Patient A and the defendant connected via Facebook and began communicating. In the following days, the defendant invited her to his house and over the following 11 or 12 days, they saw each other repeatedly and a sexual relationship developed. Patient A's family became aware of the relationship, and were concerned for their daughter's wellbeing. They complained to the hospital and gave evidence of the defendant's actions.
Despite being a person of authority and told to stay away from Patient A, the defendant enlisted the help of an employee (Subject A) to continue communicating with her. He told the young worker to pretend he was the boyfriend of Patient A and that he was using the defendant's profile to speak with her. Both Patient A and Subject A were told to lie to anyone who asked about their relationship.
After investigations were conducted, the defendant denied all allegations and instead stated that Patient A was a compulsive liar.
What did the court decide?
The defendant resigned from the hospital in March 2015 and was advised by the Local Health District in April 2016 that, following their investigation, he would have been terminated had he still been employed.
The issues in the tribunal addressed the practitioner's unprofessional conduct in the course of the relationship with Patient A. The tribunal concluded that the defendant had grossly violated his professional boundaries and taken advantage of an extremely vulnerable young patient. Therefore, the defendant was disqualified from being registered as an enrolled nurse or student nurse for a period of two years from the date of the decision.
Medical negligence covers a broad umbrella of misconduct. If you're unsure of your options, get in touch with the medical negligence lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to see how we can help.