A medical tribunal has been slammed by a sexual abuse help group for having just one woman in its five-person panel ruling on a sexual misconduct charge.

Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP chief executive Conor Twyford said without a doubt there should have been greater representation of women on the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT) panel.

She said the doctor got off "very lightly" and if anything the gender ratio should have been the other way round.

"Without the lived experience that comes with being a woman there's less chance of a sympathetic or an empathetic outcome," Twyford said.


There is no criteria for gender representation on HPDT panels and selection for the panel takes into account location and member availability.

Eight women testified against a doctor, who was found guilty of repeatedly conducting breast examinations that weren't clinically justified, making inappropriate remarks including "you know you're very attractive don't you" and not offering a chaperone during examinations.

Their complaints lay in the hands of three medical officers, the tribunal chair and a lay person.

As well as having just one woman presiding over the case, witnesses endured a tense cross-examination where their credibility was called into question numerous times.

Remarks from defence lawyer Dr Donald Stevens including "you're not an apologist for the Me Too movement" and "[the women] did not survive" the cross examination, made testifying even more gruelling.

One woman repeatedly remarked "this is why women don't come forward", after a tough round of questions.

The same witness was reduced to tears when she gave evidence about her consultation and said the doctor and his wife laughed at her.

The wife was later removed from the room.


Breast Cancer Foundation research and communications manager Adele Gautier said she imagined it would be hard for the women to give evidence to a panel that was primarily male.

"In a field where there are many, many women practising as GPs, it does seem surprising that it was such a male-dominated panel," Gautier said.

The man in question, a GP from the lower North Island, was found guilty of telling a patient she had good looking breasts and telling a teenager to consider masturbation.

He also raised the topic of breast health in situations that were not clinically justified and did not offer a chaperone when conducting breast exams.

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal chief executive Gay Fraser did not say whether she thought it was necessary to have a minimum number of women on a panel or whether the tribunal would consider implementing one.

"The appointment process to a HPDT panel to hear a charge is based firstly on ensuring as far as possible that there is at least one if not more tribunal panel members of the same scope of practice as the person appearing before the tribunal."

Fraser said once a tribunal had been selected, the names of panel members and their CVs were sent to both parties who had the option to raise concerns which would be considered by the chair.