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General practitioner reprimanded and fined over self-prescribing and prescription forgery

Doctors are expected to avoid self-prescribing and seek independent objective medical advice when necessary – particularly if they know or suspect they have a health condition that could affect their judgement or performance.

Monday, 18 December 2023

General practitioner reprimanded and fined over self-prescribing and prescription forgery

Key messages from the case

Doctors are expected to avoid self-prescribing and seek independent objective medical advice when necessary – particularly if they know or suspect they have a health condition that could affect their judgement or performance.

Self-prescribing, particularly where it also involves prescription forgery, has the potential to put others at risk, as well as having significant personal and professional consequences, as this New Zealand case illustrates.

Details of the decision

Dr A, a general practitioner, was receiving treatment from her GP, who prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication.

She was reported to the Medical Council of New Zealand by her employer and a pharmacist for self-prescribing and prescription fraud. It emerged that over a period of six years she had been self-prescribing medications including restricted medications. She had also presented Medical Practitioner Supply Orders for her own use and written prescriptions for drugs of addiction and psychotropic medications in the names of two family members, with the intention of consuming the medications herself.

The tribunal considered Dr A had put herself and others at risk personally and professionally in that:

  • using family members’ names meant their medication records were inaccurate and they were at risk of medication error or inappropriate treatment
  •  her GP was unaware of the medications she was taking and may have provided inappropriate treatment.

Dr A had admitted wrongdoing and had shown insight and remorse. After being reported she had undertaken rehabilitation and was found not to currently pose a risk to the public.

Outcome

The tribunal considered a deterrent penalty was required. Dr A was reprimanded, fined, and had supervision and prescribing conditions imposed on her registration.

Key lessons

Avoid self-prescribing and seek independent medical care.

Doctors who self-prescribe lack objectivity, and self-prescribing is not appropriate treatment.  The Medical Board’s Code of Conduct states that good medical practice involves not self-prescribing1 .

Self-prescribing or self-administering schedule 4 and schedule 8 medication is illegal in some Australian states.

Under Australian law it is an offence to forge a prescription, fraudulently alter a prescription, or present a known forged or altered prescription to obtain a drug.

References and further reading

1 Medical Board of Australia, Good Medical Practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia, 11.2.5 page 24; October 2020

Medical Council of New South Wales – Health, performance, conduct pathways

Medical Council of New South Wales – Guideline for self-treating and treating family members

Avant factsheet – Treating family members, friends or staff

Avant wellbeing resources – Early detection of substance abuse

Avant wellbeing resources – Substance abuse and the medical profession

More information

For medico-legal advice, please contact us on nca@avant.org.au or call 1800 128 268, 24/7 in emergencies.

Download Case Study

Disclaimers

The case discussed in this article is based on a real case. Certain information has been de-identified to preserve privacy and confidentiality.

IMPORTANT: This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published.

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