‘Emo­tional, sex­ual abuse’: Doc­tor faces med­i­cal panel

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - AN­DREW HOUGH

AN Ade­laide doc­tor “ex­ploited” 10 fe­male pa­tients “phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally and sex­u­ally” over at least 15 years at one of South Aus­tralia’s old­est clin­ics, the med­i­cal watch­dog al­leges.

Con­victed sex­ual preda­tor Dr Mario Athin­odorou, 50, com­mit­ted “pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct” at the Har­bour Med­i­cal Ser­vices’ North Haven surgery be­tween 1997 and 2012, a tri­bunal has heard.

The Cyprus-born doc­tor, a mar­ried fa­ther of four from Woodville South, de­nies “tak­ing ad­van­tage” of his al­leged vic­tims, none of whom can be named for le­gal rea­sons.

His mis­con­duct hear­ing comes al­most two years after The Ad­ver­tiser re­vealed the for­mer ob­ste­tri­cian avoided jail de­spite ad­mit­ting the ag­gra­vated in­de­cent as­sault of three fe­male pa­tients.

Dr Athin­odorou, a re­spected Greek Ortho­dox com­mu­nity mem­ber, was fined $6000 for the at­tacks, which hap­pened al­most two decades after he was rep­ri­manded for sim­i­lar mis­con­duct.

A four-mem­ber Health Prac­ti­tion­ers Tri­bunal panel is in­ves­ti­gat­ing if he com­mit­ted pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct, un­pro­fes­sional con­duct, un­sat­is­fac­tory pro­fes­sional per­for­mance or has an im­pair­ment.

If proven, the western sub­urbs medico, reg­is­tered since 1993, faces be­ing cau­tioned, rep­ri­manded, sub­ject to new reg­is­tra­tion con­di­tions, a max­i­mum $30,000 fine, sus­pen­sion or be­ing struck off.

He de­nies breach­ing med­i­cal pro­fes­sion laws – ex­cept those linked to the pre­vi­ous as­saults – and has failed to have the lat­est com­plaints dis­missed. The Med­i­cal Board of Aus­tralia al­leges var­i­ous “in­ti­mate” gy­nae­co­log­i­cal, breast, and skin ex­am­i­na­tions and pro­ce­dures were done with­out per­mis­sion, clin­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion or chap­er­ones.

Doc­u­ments fur­ther al­lege the women, now aged be­tween their 20s and their 50s, were in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched, groped, kissed on the lips, hugged, made to un­dress or pestered for check-ups. The al­leged vic­tims re­ported feel­ing “sick”, “vi­o­lated, “shocked”, “anx­ious”, “dirty”, “dis­tressed”, “less trust­ing” and “un­com­fort­able”.

Some were teenagers and mem­bers of the same fam­ily at the time. One vic­tim re­ported feel­ing an “erect pe­nis” dur­ing a back ma­nip­u­la­tion.

The women, whose iden­ti­ties are pro­tected by a tri­bunal- im­posed se­crecy or­der, gave ev­i­dence from be­hind a screen or via video link. The tri­bunal heard some suf­fered mar­riage break­downs, drug abuse, men­tal health prob­lems or sui­ci­dal thoughts. The board ac­cuses the GP of bringing “the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion into dis­re­pute” and not be­ing “fit and proper” through con­duct “sub­stan­tially be­low the stan­dard rea­son­ably ex­pected”.

The state’s med­i­cal con­duct tri­bunal had “warned” him in 2003 about his “in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour” with a pa­tient he kissed and hugged. He is sub­ject to ex­ten­sive “un­der­tak­ings”.

In its 11 page state­ment of com­plaint, the board al­leges a lack of med­i­cal “pro­fes­sional val­ues and qual­i­ties” by: EX­PLOIT­ING pa­tients “phys­i­cally emo­tion­ally and sex­u­ally” US­ING his pro­fes­sional po­si­tion to es­tab­lish or pur­sue a “sex­ual, ex­ploita­tive or other in­ap­pro­pri­ate” re­la­tion­ships EN­GAG­ING in “sex­ual mis­con­duct” or “abuse” through touch­ing, be­hav­iour, ha­rass­ment or re­marks about pa­tients NOT pri­ori­tis­ing their care, show­ing dis­re­spect or over­step­ping pro­fes­sional bound­aries FAIL­ING to main­tain com­mu­nity trust and re­spect, keep­ing ac­cu­rate med­i­cal records or rec­om­mend­ing un­nec­es­sary ser­vices.

Emily Telfer SC, for the board, told the tri­bunal it was a “spe­cific kind of be­hav­iour”.

She said: “Ul­ti­mately it is the tri­bunal (that) will ask it­self: Have all th­ese women in­de­pen­dently fab­ri­cated it, made it up or have been mis­taken? Or does the com­mon­al­ity of their ex­pe­ri­ence across so many of them bear on that prob­a­bil­ity?”

Scott Hench­liffe SC, de­fend­ing, ques­tioned vic­tims’ ac­counts, claim­ing some had “made up” their al­le­ga­tions or “mis­led” po­lice.

Dr Athin­odorou has left the 1845-founded prac­tice, which also has of­fices at Tap­eroo and Port Ade­laide, but records show he is cur­rently prac­tis­ing at Munno Para in Ade­laide’s north.

He re­fused to com­ment but is ex­pected to give ev­i­dence in Novem­ber.

MIS­CON­DUCT: Mario Athin­odorou leaves Port Ade­laide Mag­is­trates Court in 2016.

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