Psychiatrist punished over sex with vulnerable patient

By Brendan Manning

Photo / File
Photo / File

A psychiatrist who had a sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient, and paid her tens of thousands of dollars to keep quiet about it has been stripped of his registration and ordered to pay more than $70,000.

Dr Manilall Maharajh, whose name suppression has been lifted, was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in September.

In its just-released penalty decision, the tribunal said Dr Maharajh's conduct was serious enough to "warrant discipline for the purposes of protecting the public, maintaining professional standards and punishing the practitioner".

The tribunal's director of proceeding Aaron Martin said Dr Maharajh was unfit to practise as a psychiatrist and represented a danger to the public if he continued to do so.

A hearing in August heard allegations he had filmed himself having sex with the patient, known as Ms Y.

Dr Maharajh entered into a relationship with the woman in 2008.

During their relationship, he also prescribed an anti-depressant drug to Ms Y without "adequate clinical justification".

Later, she asked him for compensation for "injury to her feelings and loss she had suffered".

Instead of following protocols, Dr Maharajh began paying Ms Y. The payments continued even after she laid a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner.

The payments began in mid-February 2009 for about 18 months.

The tribunal also found Dr Maharajh had encouraged Ms Y to mislead the Health and Disability Commissioner about the nature of their relationship, and had emailed Ms Y's father to organise a meeting to discuss her, without her consent.

The tribunal found Dr Maharaj's misconduct cumulatively amounted to multiple and severe breaches of standards over a long period of time.

"Having regard to the manner in which Dr Maharajh took advantage of a young, vulnerable and sexually inexperienced woman for his own sexual gratification, such being a complete abrogation of his professional responsibilities as a psychiatrist and of the trust inherent in a professional relationship, discipline must be considered for the purpose of protecting the public, maintaining professional standards and punishing the practitioner.

"This is to ensure that the conduct of Dr Maharajh and of other members of the profession conform to the standards generally expected."

The tribunal cancelled Dr Maharajh's registration and ordered him to pay $27,000 to the Medical Council and $46,000 to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

The tribunal's decision would also be published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Dr Maharajh formerly lived in Tauranga but now works in Australia, according to the decision.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 25 Jul 2014 20:03:19 Processing Time: 459ms