Wednesday 26 July 2017

Doctor prescribed strong tranquilliser to teen heroin addict

Fergus Black

A DOCTOR who prescribed tranquillisers to a 15-year-old recovering heroin addict has been found guilty of professional misconduct.

Dr Denis O'Dwyer, a general practioner (GP), faced 10 allegations of professional misconduct or poor professional performance over his care of the unnamed patient.

The patient, who is now 18, was 15 when he first began seeing the GP at his Kildare surgery in July 2009.

Over an 18-month period he obtained 21 prescriptions for the tranquilliser benzodiazepine until he was banned from the surgery in early 2011, a Medical Council fitness to practice hearing was told.

JP McDowell, for the Medical Council, said benzodiazepines should usually only be prescribed for four weeks because they are addictive.

The committee found Dr O'Dwyer guilty on four counts of professional misconduct and two of poor professional performance.

These included that he failed to take a medical history of the patient, failed to provide adequate or appropriate treatment and that he prescribed benzodiazepine in an appropriate manner and/or contrary to good practice guidelines.

The teen, referred to only as patient X, is currently in prison and told the hearing he previously underwent a HSE drug treatment programme when he was 13 or 14.


In 2009, when he was 15 he just "walked in" to Dr O'Dwyer's surgery and told the doctor he could not sleep and that he was a recovering heroin addict.

"It was something I just said. I wasn't having sleep problems," he told the committee. "Basically it was in and out. I got my first 'script (prescription) in July 2009 at the age of 15."

He did not tell the doctor he was on a drug treatment programme and visited him once a month. The teen also claimed: "Other times he could say 'what the f**k do you want' and he would throw a 'script at me."

Dr O'Dwyer, who was not legally represented, declined to give evidence.

But the doctor made a statement to the hearing.

"I never in my life used foul language to any patient who came to my surgery," he said.

Professor Colin Bradley, chair of general practice at University College Cork, told the hearing that the failure to take a medical history of the patient was a serious failure in standards – as was failing to inquire into the possibility of serious underlying medical health problems.

"Being such a young patient, there was an opportunity to steer him away from a lifetime of drug use and the GP should be particularly keen for him to access specialised services," he said.

A decision on any sanctions will be made by the Medical Council at a later stage.

Irish Independent

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