Australia

Vic specialist banned from breast checks

A Victorian medical specialist has been ordered to temporarily stop performing breast examinations after a number of female patients rang alarm bells.

A Victorian medical specialist has been temporarily banned from doing breast checks after a number of female patients raised concerns.

Specialist endocrinologist Dr Murray Gerstman has been ordered to stop performing the examinations as a condition of his registration, after seven women over the last 12 years reported concerns about unexplained examinations to the medical board.

Patients' concerns included not knowing why they were having an examination, why they had to undress, a feeling of discomfort and in some cases distress. In most cases they decided to change practitioner.

One woman who made a notification last year about her experience years ago, said it "had sat uncomfortably in her mind for 23 years, and she was reporting it in case other women had had a similar experience", a tribunal heard.

Dr Gerstman denies ever having done examinations that were not clinically justified. However, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard he now recognises he fell short in the past in providing proper reasons for what he proposed to do and why.

The most recent notification triggered immediate action by the medical board in February, temporarily banning him from contact with female patients, while it investigates.

It was from the mother of a 20-year-old girl who came to an emergency ward unwell after being diagnosed that day with Type 1 diabetes, concerned she had a breast check without an explanation about why it was necessary.

Dr Gerstman says the examination was clinical justified to check for diabetic mastopathy, but none was found.

Just over half of Dr Gerstman's patients are female and he appealed the board's decision to VCAT.

VCAT set aside the decision and instead ordered he temporarily stop doing breast examinations until the allegations were investigated.

The tribunal said there's no suggestion his conduct is predatory or for sexual gratification and none of the notifiers perceived the touching as sexual, but for whatever reason, a notable number of patients were concerned.

It heard the highly regarded doctor was distressed by the notifications and saw himself as a thorough and painstaking, concerned not to miss anything, but in the past saw no need for detailed explanation.

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