Married GP in sexual relationship with depressed patient

 

A DOCTOR who had a sexual relationship with a patient for almost two years, while she was depressed and often suicidal, has had his registration suspended for 13 months.

Brisbane GP Gary James Whittaker, then in his 50s, had sex with the patient at his suburban practice two or three times a week, and also at her home, a tribunal heard.

The sexual relationship continued for 20 months, ending when the patient moved away from Brisbane, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

Dr Whittaker, who was married, sometimes treated the patient multiple times a week, at his office or by making visits to her home, while they were involved in a sexual relationship.

The doctor began treating the woman in 2013, prescribing her anti-depressants and referring her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with major depression.

Dr Whittaker knew the patient had a history of depression dating back a few years, she had suicidal thoughts and dependent and vulnerable personality traits.

He once went with her to a hospital emergency department after she tried to walk in front of cars.

Dr Whittaker gave the patient his home email address, in 2014 he gave her a present and a few months later he kissed her, the tribunal heard.

The sexual relationship began in November, 2014 and ended in November, 2016.

After Dr Whittaker's wife overheard a phone call between her husband and the patient, and realised it was "not an innocent conversation", the doctor reported his own boundary violation to his regulatory body.

The Health Ombudsman imposed conditions on the doctor's registration from 2016 until 2018.

Dr Whittaker, 60, who has had his own GP practice since 1986, has attended seven sessions with a senior psychiatrist and shown remorse, the tribunal said.

The tribunal reprimanded Dr Whittaker and suspended his registration, for professional misconduct, for 13 months from October, last year.

Originally published as Married GP in sexual relationship with depressed patient