By Jessica Donaldson
A Sydney paediatrician has admitted to an affair with the mother of two of his patients which lasted for years, in what is the first NSW disciplinary case involving a relationship between a doctor and a patient’s family member.
Dr Antony Underwood admitted to the Medical Tribunal yesterday that his actions had harmed the woman, her partner, and their children, and had amounted to professional misconduct.
Speaking to the tribunal Dr Underwood related how the affair began in 2004, and admitted under cross-examination that ”the possibility of a sexual relationship arose and I took that opportunity.”
Dr Underwood agreed that ”infatuation” had ”clouded [his] judgment”. The tribunal heard how on one particular occasion physical contact occurred in the presence of the woman’s daughter.
Dr Underwood had been practicing at the Pymble Grove Medical Centre in Gordon, where he specialised in using diet and other alternative therapies to treat children with autism.
The Medical Tribunal hearing is the first time that a NSW doctor has been accused of a conducting a relationship with a patient’s relative, and highlights the rules around prohibited relationships between doctors and patients – potentially extending the prohibition to include relationships with a patient’s extended family.
Mark Lynch, Dr Underwood’s barrister, said, ”Dr Underwood accepts … a paediatrician is entrusted with the care of the patient, and the parent is standing in the shoes of the patient and is sometimes even more vulnerable.”
The woman’s former partner, and the father of the children, who cannot be named for legal reasons said, ”For me, [my partner] was as much the patient as my two children.”
The tribunal can deregister, fine, or impose practicing license conditions depending on the outcome of the case. A judgment will be made at a future hearing of the tribunal.