A dental surgeon has admitted misconduct over an incident in which a patient suffered invasive tongue cancer.

The charges were presented at a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal at the Collegiate Motel Inn in Whanganui on Wednesday.

They arise from the care of a patient who developed invasive tongue cancer after delays in diagnosis of a lesion and referral for specialist treatment, due to biopsy results being misread.

The oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who has name suppression and is known as Dr N, admitted charges of professional misconduct.


Prosecutor Lisa Preston told the tribunal that the delays resulted in the need for more extensive surgery and post-operative radiotherapy for the patient which would have been avoided if an earlier diagnosis and referral had been made.

"Dr N's professional misconduct encompasses multiple failures in the care he provided to the patient, including a critical failure to understand his patient's diagnosis and therefore a failure to recommend and provide appropriate treatment on three separate occasions."

Ms Preston said Dr N has also failed to obtain his patient's informed consent to treatment and had serious deficiencies in his clinical note-taking.

"As a result of Dr N's failures, the patient's cancer diagnosis was significantly delayed."

One charge that was not made public was withdrawn on Wednesday.

Tribunal chair David Carden said Dr N did not dispute any factual matters presented or that it was professional misconduct.

Counsel for Dr N, Harry Waalkens QC, said his client accepted that there would be an adverse disciplinary finding and had acknowledged that he had made an error and misread the biopsy results.

Harry Waalkens, QC. Photo/File
Harry Waalkens, QC. Photo/File

Mr Waalkens said diagnostic errors were prevalent in medicine.


The tribunal found that all the charges had been met and warranted disciplinary sanctions. The reasons for the finding will be included in the tribunal's written decision.

The hearing continues on Thursday with the tribunal to decide on what penalties will be applied to Dr N and whether an order for permanent name suppression will be made.