Dr Nguyen - Professional misconduct

27th November 2018

On 12 October 2018, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) found Dr Howard van Nguyen, a general practitioner, guilty of professional misconduct. The allegations considered related to:
• prescribing and administering pethidine and diazepam to a woman who later died of combined drug toxicity; and
• poor record keeping over an extended period .

The Tribunal found the following conduct proven:
• On 42 occasions over an 8 year period, Dr Nguyen administered pethidine without performing an appropriate medical examination, without communicating with the prescribing doctor or other treating practitioners, without formulating a pain management plan or effective referral for specialist treatment and without properly assessing whether the patient was drug dependent or exhibiting drug-seeking behaviours;
• On 16 occasions over the same 8 year period, Dr Nguyen prescribed or administered diazepam without adequately coordinating the patient’s care with other treating practitioners when he ought to have known that the drugs were likely to be abused;
• Over the same 8 year period, Dr Nguyen failed to maintain proper medical records regarding the patient.

The Tribunal found Dr Nguyen had engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.

The Tribunal imposed a formal reprimand and conditions that Dr Nguyen undergo further education, comply with a records audit and practice under supervision for 6 months. For reasons including that Dr Nguyen has completed some educational courses, improved his practices, expressed genuine remorse and is highly regarded by local practitioners, the Tribunal held that suspension is not necessary to protect the health and safety of the public in this case.

The decision is available online at NSW Caselaw.

Further Information

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

The information in this media release is correct at the time of publication. Orders may change; for example, conditions may no longer apply. For current information regarding the status of a registered health practitioner, including any conditions that currently apply, please check the National Register at www.ahpra.gov.au.