Case Study - Your duty to be candid and honest

This month we draw your attention to a case involving a nurse who admitted to forging prescriptions on pads stolen from two medical practitioners. The prescriptions were for opioids and benzodiazepines, and the fact that they were forgeries was detected by the pharmacist to whom they were presented through the process of verifying their validity with the purported prescribers.

The nurse was subject to regulatory action, and subsequently did not renew her registration. The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ordered that, had the practitioner still been registered as a nurse, her registration would have been cancelled for a period of 18 months.

Of particular interest to health practitioners in all professions, is that NCAT made findings not only on the theft of prescription pads and presentation of forged prescription. A large part of the judgement focused on the practitioner’s lack of honesty in presenting false information to the regulatory authorities, which included the Nursing and Midwifery Council of NSW and the Health Care Complaints Commission, during the investigations. The full decision can be accessed here, however some key points are reproduced below. While this matter related to the nursing profession, it is clear that the principles apply equally to all health professions, including pharmacy.

“It is essential to the smooth operation of the system of regulation and discipline that practitioners are truthful and candid in their dealings with regulatory authorities. Practitioners should uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity in their dealings with those authorities.” (par 49)

“It was [name removed]’s duty to be candid and honest with the Council and the Commission. This is an integral part of the proper functioning of the regulatory system. It was improper and unethical of her to provide misleading information to both entities. By her actions she demonstrated a disregard for the Council and Commission, and their roles. Again [name removed] failed to identify the moral dimension to her conduct. Her conduct was not in conformity with standards of professional conduct and practice and as such was improper and unethical.” (par 50)

The Pharmacy Council affirms these comments by the Tribunal.