Australia

Fake doctors in Australia face $60,000 fine, jail term under tougher penalties

Raffaele di Paolo pretended to be a fertility specialist but was in fact a homeopath. (AAP) Source: AAP

People who pretend to be medical professionals will face tougher penalties under new laws which have come into effect.

Raffaele Di Paolo failed to get into medical school but it didn't stop him claiming to be a fertility specialist.

For more than a decade, Di Paolo told vulnerable women in Victoria and Queensland he was a qualified gynaecologist and obstetrician when he was, in fact, a homeopath.

He performed a range of bizarre treatments and tests on his patients, including using a needle to remove semen from a man's testicles without anaesthetic and injecting homeopathic substances into women's stomachs and buttocks.

Raffaele di Paolo allegedly provided IVF treatment to women for a decade without qualification.
Raffaele di Paolo allegedly provided IVF treatment to women for a decade without qualification.
AAP

The con landed him in prison.

The authority responsible for the registration of medical professionals, however, could only impose a $28,000 fine.

From 1 July, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority will be able to impose tougher penalties, including a maximum jail term of three years on those pretending to be a registered practitioner.

Fines will be doubled per offence from $30,000 to $60,000 for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 for a corporation.

More than 50 cases of people pretending to be a health practitioner have been prosecuted by the authority since 2014.

Chief executive Martin Fletcher said some cases have included people pretending to be dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

"There's a pretty steady stream of these complaints coming to us and it's a bit more common than you might have first thought," he told reporters.

"We put a lot of trust in our health practitioners and we expect them to be registered and we expect them to hold professional standards.

"It's a gross violation of trust if it turns out that the person they're seeing is pretending to be registered when they're not."

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation described the changes as important in protecting both registered professionals and their patients.

"The public places a great amount of trust in nurses and the work they do. Anyone who falsely claims to be a nurse betrays this trust and must face the consequences," federal secretary Annie Butler said.

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