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A gynaecologist has been fined for unprofessional conduct after calling his female patient ‘petite and pretty’ and inviting her home.
Dr Bhupendra Khara has been a consultant obstetrician and a gynaecologist for 38 years.
In April 2016, Dr Khara saw a female patient at the Royal Darwin Hospital after her GP referred her for investigation of lower abdominal pain associated with menstrual periods.
The patient was surprised to see she was referred to a male GP.
Dr Khara performed a vaginal examination and took a swab from the patient.
A nurse was present during the examination but left after that.
It was after she dressed, the doctor said to her, "you are petite and pretty", and then, later in the conversation, said: "Yes, I do like sex, but I am not interested in any relationship".
Four days later the doctor telephoned her, even when the patient's swab had not yet been analysed, asking, "how is the pretty girl doing?" before inviting her to his home for dinner, the tribunal found.
In his defence, the doctor insisted he said ‘petite and pretty – like my daughter’.
The patient denied the doctor made any such reference to his daughter during the consultation.
During the hearing, Dr Khara claimed the comments about liking sex were part of an exchange where he said, "You are petite and pretty — like my daughter".
Woman: "You have got something on your glasses."
Dr Khara [after taking off glasses to inspect them and noticing the woman smiling]: "You're being cheeky."
Woman: "Maybe sexy? Do you like sex?"
Dr Khara: "Yes I do like sex, but I am not interested in any relationship."
The patient though denied ever asking Dr Khara whether he liked sex.
The Northern Territory's Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) found Dr Khare’s conduct violating ‘boundaries that must be maintained’.
"It is clear that the admitted conduct involved violations of the well-established and well-understood boundaries that must be maintained between health practitioners and their patients," the tribunal found.
He offered no plausible explanation for the dinner invitation, the findings stated.
The invitation "involved a complete failure on his part to maintain the professional distance, dispassion and trust that is so fundamental to the doctor-patient relationship," the tribunal ruled.
"We have no hesitation in accepting HC's evidence that the conversation about sex… left her feeling extremely uncomfortable and that she had no wish, following the consultation that day, to ever be seen by the respondent again," the tribunal said.
The tribunal said Dr Khara's conduct was worthy of a reprimand, but it didn't think that re-education, the use of a chaperone, or a requirement for mentoring would achieve "any useful purpose", and found there was no evidence that the behaviour was part of a pattern.
"We approach those events on the basis that they represented an isolated occasion on which the respondent allowed temptation to cloud his better judgment," it said.
Dr Khara has been ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 by December 14th.