GP who spammed 600 patients with anti-vaccine views slammed

December 5, 2022

The GP was working at a medical centre at the time when he accessed the patient management system to send out the message last August, which expressed his non-conventional views on the Pfizer vaccine. He also advised others in person not to be vaccinated.

An investigation was launched by the Health and Disability Commission after 11 patients filed complaints against the GP.

In her report, released today, Health and Disability Commissioner Morag McDowell found the GP in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights (the Code) over his failure to provide balanced information to patients, which she said went against the Medical Council of New Zealand's standards.

She was critical of the GP for failing to provide one of his in-person patients "balanced and accurate information to enable the patient to make an informed choice about whether or not to be vaccinated".

McDowell also found that another patient failed to receive information that a reasonable person in his circumstances would expect to receive.

She said while the GP "was entitled to hold and express opinions regarding the Covid-19 vaccine subject to maintaining legal, professional, ethical and other relevant standards", his use of the medical centre's patient management system to send out the unsolicited text message to patients "who had not sought his opinion and were not necessarily making a choice about the vaccine or giving informed consent" was in breach of the code.

"Informed consent is vital, and indeed it is the cornerstone of the Code. I do not accept that the information in the text message was sufficiently balanced to enable patients to make an informed choice as to whether or not they would be vaccinated."

McDowell said it was evident from the response from many of his patients that the GP's actions were "distressing".

"In my view, there is a power imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship, which means that patients are likely to be influenced by advice given by their doctor."

McDowell was also critical of the GP's failure to document the information he provided during the in-person consultations.

She recommended that the Medical Council carry out a competence assessment and require him to practise under conditions should the GP be granted another practising certificate.

McDowell also recommended the GP apologise separately to all of the patients who raised concerns about his behaviour, and to carry out training on professional and ethical standards.

The medical centre should also consider developing guidelines on the use of patient lists and its management system.