Research related professional misconduct

Medical Board of Australia v Melhuish [2016] ACAT 29 is a somewhat unusual matter, in that the Medical Board did not seek to limit the respondent’s clinical practice as an anaesthetist, but rather sought and obtained an order that respondent must not practise as a medical researcher for a period of 12 months.

The relevant misconduct was said to be (at [6]) that:

  • On 23 June 2013, on or around 15 January 2014 and on 30 January 2014, the respondent engaged in misconduct by writing letters to four former patients at the Canberra Hospital claiming, that as a result of research undertaken at the Canberra Hospital, medical treatment details, identifiable as belonging to them, were available to persons and organisations outside the hospital, without any evidence that this allegation was true.
  • The respondent breached Principle 9 of the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1998 (ACT) (the Health Records Act), the NHMRC Code, the ACT Health Research Practice Policy and acted inconsistently with Information Privacy Principle 11 of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (the Privacy Act) by disseminating information he was provided with as a result of his involvement in a research project to persons and/or entities outside the project research team.
  • The respondent persisted in the conduct of writing to patients making allegations that their medical treatment details were being made available outside the hospital and accessing patient records without authorisation despite his employer’s direction not to do so after he wrote the first letter.

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