Medical Misconduct Solicitors

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Our Australian lawyers are patient advocates. They represent patients who have been harmed by health care. They can provide obligation-free legal advice on matters relating to medical misconduct and negligence. Call our toll free helpline or complete our Contact Form for free legal assistance from a medical misconduct solicitor.

Misconduct by doctors

Patients who are harmed by negligence or medical misconduct by a doctor or other health practitioner have the right to make a complaint to the relevant authorities (such as the Medical Board or Health Care Complaints Commission or AHPRA), and may also be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

If you have been harmed by negligent medical care, or by a practitioner affected by drugs or alcohol, or through medical abuse (such as sexual misconduct), then you should seek legal advice to protect your rights.

Mandatory reporting of harmful conduct by health practitioners

A major development since the Dr Graeme Reeves debacle where many patients complained of alleged medical abuse and incompetent treatment, in circumstances where it was alleged that coworkers and employers knew or had suspicions of his poor conduct, has been mandatory dob-in-a-doctor laws.

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the Health Professions (“the Scheme”) commenced on 1 July 2010. As part of the legislation, all registered health practitioners will be legally required to report any other registered health practitioner who has behaved in a manner that constitutes ‘notifiable conduct’. The purpose of mandatory reporting is to prevent the public from being placed at risk of harm.

 ‘Notifiable conduct’ is defined in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (the National Law) and means the practitioner has:

(a) practised the practitioner’s profession while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs; or

(b) engaged in sexual misconduct in connection with the practice of the practitioner’s profession; or

(c) placed the public at risk of substantial harm in the practitioner’s practice of the profession because the practitioner has an impairment; or

(d) placed the public at risk of harm because the practitioner has practised the profession in a way that constitutes a significant departure from accepted professional standards.

Health practitioners who are covered by this legislation, and are therefore required to report to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) notifiable conduct, includes:

  • Medical practitioners i.e doctors, specialists
  • Dentists
  • Midwives and Nurses
  • Physiotherapists
  • Optometrists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Osteopaths
  • Chiropractors
  • Pharmacists

The mandatory reporting relates to students as well as fully qualified health care practitioners.

An employer, colleague or other practitioner must have a “reasonable belief” that the behaviour constitutes notifiable conduct.

The National Law protects practitioners, employers and education providers who make notifications in good faith (well-intentioned or without malice). Protection is provided from civil, criminal and administrative liability, including defamation, for practitioners making notifications in good faith. Making a notification is not a breach of professional etiquette or ethics, or a departure from accepted standards of professional conduct.

What does this mean for patients?

Hopefully, if health care providers become aware of harmful or potentially harmful conduct of a practitioner, they will take steps to report the practitioner before a patient is harmed by their conduct.

Failure of health care practitioners to make reports in circumstances where they have reasonable belief, may result in action being taken against them by their registration Board.

This is a good step forward in protecting the health and wellbeing of patients against impaired and rogue doctors, psychologists, nurses etc

The requirement to report students will also hopefully mean that any severe behavioural issues which can harm patients, may be addressed early on in their careers, whilst the possibility of change is still possible and prevention of harm to future scores of patients.

Similarly employers such as hospitals now have this legal duty imposed upon them in relation to notifiable conduct of their health practitioner employees.

Unfortunately, health practitioners employed by medical insurance companies and some other bodies are exempt from the mandatory reporting requirements. This is unfortunate for patients, as medical insurance companies would have access to all the complaints against their insured member, and would therefore be aware of potential problem practitioners.

Nevertheless, the legislation is a step in the right direction in protecting patients’ rights, and minimising the risk of severe harm by the few health practitioners whose conduct is completely unacceptable.

 

To read more about misconduct cases, click on the link below:

Intoxicated Doctors

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