Doctor scolded over fatal treatment

  • 10/08/2015
Doctor scolded over fatal treatment

By Paula Purcell

A doctor who prescribed a drug-addicted patient with an experimental psychoactive substance, before flying overseas while the woman died at his clinic, has been given a slap on the wrist.

The 45-year-old woman had a history of opiate addiction, and was prescribed ibogaine, an unapproved prescription-only medicine, by her doctor in 2013.

She was evaluated as being suitable for the treatment, but an investigation by the Health and Disability Commissioner found she did not give consent to be administered an experimental drug nor was her assessment for suitability documented.

The woman received six doses of ibogaine over the course of two days, before her doctor left to go overseas, leaving her in the care of his assistant.

At 1pm on the second day, she was noted to be: "Lying still. Facing bathroom". At 2pm she was recorded to be: "Lying still. On side, peaceful."

The woman did not stir when her husband called later that day, nor when a heater was turned on in her treatment room.

Her blood pressure was not checked.

She was found dead, in the same position as the previous 18 hours, on the third day.

Commissioner Anthony Hill said the woman was not provided adequate information about the risks and side effects of ibogaine or its experimental nature.

The GP failed to obtain the woman's written consent to the treatment, which was required because of the treatment's experimental nature.

"In prescribing ibogaine for the treatment of drug addictions, the GP was prescribing an unapproved medicine for experimental use and, accordingly, he should have acted in a more cautionary manner," said Mr Hill.

"The impression is that it was a sloppy operation with little regard for professional standards."

The doctor does not practise in New Zealand, but agreed to undertake further training before he can resume treating patients here again.

He and his assistant have apologised to the woman's family.