23-05-2012

Anaesthetist who took drugs before operating loses appeal

The doctor was erased from the register last May 2011 following a fitness to practise hearing and brought an appeal against the decision.

He was found to have been guilty of misconduct both by virtue of misconduct and also a conviction and also unfit to practise by virtue of his adverse mental or physical health owing to his Opioid Dependency Syndrome.

He had started using opiate drugs taken dishonestly for his own use from the hospital at which he worked between 1994 and 2009. He started injecting himself in the hospital car park and also used non-prescription painkillers. He gave untruthful accounts when questioned by the hospital and later by the police in conjunction with the criminal proceedings in respect of theft of the drugs.

He was also found to have given an untrue account of his drug abuse when examined by a medical officer for the GMC in connection with the fitness to practise proceedings.

The appellant submitted: (i) the panel's reasoning in reaching the conclusion that he was not a credible witness was flawed; (ii) that the panel's reasoning in concluding that the appellant had self-administered drugs in the hospital buildings was flawed; and (iii) the panel's determination that he should be erased from the medical register was an excessive and disproportionate sanction.

The appeal was dismissed.

It was decided that in this case the evidence had demonstrated that the appellant had persistently lied about his drug abuse. The appellant had not been entitled to much credit for having volunteered a fuller history to the panel. Once the report had been disclosed, the appellant could no longer deny his earlier history of drug abuse. On the evidence, the panel had been entitled to conclude that the appellant's drug abuse had become so extensive, out of control and chaotic that he would not have had the self-control not to self-administer within the hospital buildings. The panel had been entitled to find that the appellant's misconduct had demonstrated a 'blatant disregard for patient safety' and that it had been more by good luck than good management that no patients had been harmed. The panel had correctly concluded that suspension would not have been sufficient to mark the seriousness of the appellant's misconduct, to protect the public interest or to ensure the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.