Doc on ethics rap hasn’t avoided punishment – not by buggering off to Australia, anyway

Alf’s attention was grabbed by the headline and intro to a Herald on Sunday story about Dr Jonathan Graham Wright, a fellow who was found to have breached professional and ethical standards when he accepted money from an 81-year-old terminal cancer sufferer, Cornelis Soeters.

The patient’s son, Paul Soeters, 46, seems to have uncovered a record of the payment.

The son obviously is a bloke with a strong sense of right and wrong, and he said it “doesn’t seem right” that the doctor – a medic with two previous stains on his professional record – has been able to avoid restrictions by moving to Queensland before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal ruling.

Wright, from Christchurch, was suspended for six months from April this year, and ordered to be supervised for two years afterwards, with further restrictions including completing an ethics course. He was also fined $7500 plus costs.

However, the tribunal ruling is only valid in New Zealand, and does not affect Wright’s ability to practise in Cairns, where he moved in 2012.

“I’m not trying to ruin the man’s livelihood or anything, but that just didn’t seem right at all,” Paul Soeters said.

The Herald on Sunday report says Cornelis Soeters was given weeks to live after a cancer diagnosis in October 2011.

It also describes him as a “stubborn” and eccentric bachelor” who cashed in shares. He donated $100,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation and transferred $150,000 into an account in Wright’s name to spend on the health needs of the local community.

Wright said his patient had been adamant he accept the money, and keep it secret.

But Soeters’ son discovered bank documents detailing the transaction shortly before his death.

The family were “relieved” by the decision, Paul Soeters said, but felt “a doctor should be above” pressure from a patient to accept such sums.

“The fine, the outcome, is not as important as the fact that it was noted and that he won’t do it again. That’s more important to me … so that people are aware that this does happen.

“The population is ageing and there’s more and more people in that situation, you want to think that the professionals you deal with are professional … they should be beyond any sort of wrong-doing or suspicion,” he said.

The tribunal also heard that-

* Wright had a previous conviction for claiming false expenses of $18,300 while working with the Accident Compensation Corporation.

* He was also censured and fined for over-prescribing diet pills to a patient in 1998.

So why was Alf drawn to this tory?

Because the first sentence says:

A doctor who accepted $150,000 from an eccentric dying patient has escaped sanctions by moving to Australia.

This strikes Alf as a load of bollocks.

Moving to Australia – as any Kiwi with his fair share of brain cells can tell you – is worse than being punished in some way by a disciplinary tribunal.

That’s why the Poms shipped its convicts there in the good old days.

It was a penal colony and hasn’t much improved its status since then.

Accordingly it is daft to say (as the headline writer has done) Death gift doc avoids sanctions.

That’s like saying a felon facing the death penalty has avoided death by throwing himself off a cliff.

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