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Consultant psychiatrist sanctioned over crossing professional boundaries with patient

It was alleged they had gone out for meals together including a candlelit dinner at a French restaurant.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE HIGH COURT has confirmed sanctions imposed on a consultant psychiatrist found by the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Committee to have crossed professional boundaries with one of his patients.

The court heard that Dr Bernard Murphy was the subject of complaints that he had held hands with, hugged and stroked the hair of a now former female patient he had treated over a six year period.
Other allegations made by the patient included that he invited her to various events, held hands with her when they took a walk in a park, that they had gone out for meals together including a candlelit dinner at a French restaurant, and he gave her gifts including chocolates and jewellery.

She claimed that he texted her on occasions late at night. 
It was further alleged he disclosed personal details about another woman to her, and had disclosed details about her to that other individual, and once told her he “loved her” as “a therapist” and while not being related to her as “a father”.

The patient, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who made the allegations against Dr Murphy was the victim of sexual abuse, and had been suffering from PTSD.

The incidents complained of occurred during the latter three years of the six years she was being treated by him.

The court heard that the woman made the complaint to the Medical Council, which launched an investigation into the allegations of professional misconduct and poor professional performance.

Arising out of that probe the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise committee made findings against Dr Murphy, with an address at Banteer, Co Cork, including that he failed to maintain any adequate professional boundaries between himself and the patient.

The committee also found that Dr Murphy had failed to maintain any adequate clinical notes relating to the treatment afforded to the patient during the period when the incidents are said to have occurred.

The committee said while Dr Murphy had recognised some of his short comings it was concerned that he had shown limited insight.

In light of those findings, the council made a recommendation that certain sanctions, which are primarily designed to protect the public and not punish the practioner, be applied.

The sanctions, which must be complied with if his name on the Medical Register is to be retained, include that Dr Murphy successfully undertake a course in ethics, that deals with the management of professional boundaries, and record keeping.

He must also work with an accepted professional person to formulate a professional development plan to address deficiencies in professional boundaries, ethics and professionalism and record keeping.

A copy of this plan must be given to the Medical Council within three months, and he must also meet with a nominee of the council to discuss how the aims set out in the plan are being achieved.  

Evidence of compliance with the plan must also be furnished to the Medical Council’s nominated person.

The conditions are to remain attached to Dr Murphy’s name on the Medical Register for a minimum of 12 months. 

The committee said that the public would be best served by Dr Murphy focusing on developing his understanding of the professional role and boundaries of a medical practioner by taking a suitable course.

Today, solicitor JP McDowell for the Medical Council asked Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds to confirm the sanctions on Dr Murphy, who he told the court had not appealed the sanctions nor the committee’s findings against him.

The judge, after considering the evidence, said she was satisfied to make the orders sought, and that Dr Murphy was aware that the matter was before the court.

There was no objection to the Medical Council’s application, and Dr Murphy was not present nor represented during the brief hearing.

Comments are closed for legal reasons. 

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About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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