GP banned after patient's cash gift

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014

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A former Christchurch doctor has been banned from practising in Australia and New Zealand after accepting $150,000 from a dying, elderly patient.

Dr Jonathan Graham Wright has been temporarily suspended from working in both countries after he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in April.

The tribunal found the doctor acted inappropriately when he accepted money from the Christchurch patient eight days after the man had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Wright typed out a statement at the medical clinic he worked at, naming himself as the recipient of the $150,000 gift, and went to the patient's house to get the statement signed without any witnesses in October 2011, the tribunal heard.

The patient's son discovered the transfer in a bank statement two months later and sought legal advice.

At the tribunal, Wright said the patient had transferred the money to him as a donation to provide medical services to people in the local area.

The patient was "adamant" no details of the transfer were to be either recorded in his medical notes, discussed with his family or lawyers, Wright told the tribunal. He said the circumstances had amounted to a "terrible mistake".

After the patient died and Wright was contacted by the patient's family lawyer, he sought legal advice and then transferred the funds, plus any accrued interest, to the family lawyer.

Wright has previously been convicted for claiming false expenses of $18,300 by inflating travel time and expenses while working for ACC between 2009 and 2010.

He was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court to 300 hours of community work in 2010. Wright worked as a GP in New Zealand from 1988 to January 2013, when he moved to Australia and began working as a GP in Cairns.

The tribunal fined Wright $7500 and suspended him from practising in New Zealand for six months.

He was ordered to pay 30 per cent of court costs and to carry out a course on ethics and professional boundaries.

The Medical Board of Australia also suspended Wright's registration two days after the tribunal decision.

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