A general practioner in Auckland was found guilty of four counts of misconduct.
The doctor failed to properly examine Virginia Duncan, 43 years old and a mother of three children. She died on February 2003 of colorectal cancer, after complaining of severe abdominal pains and constipation for more than a year. The doctor is accused of tampered with her clinical notes, ignoring the advice of another GP, not referring her to another specialist and failing to recognize the symptoms properly. But later the doctor admitted lying to authorities investigating the case.
Despite all this he continues to work in the profession. The doctor's identity remains a secret and the other patients are not aware of the mistakes the doctor has committed. The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found the general practitioner guilty on four charges of professional misconduct. The guilty verdict pleased Virginia's family, but her twin sister Fiona Duncan was very sad about the death of her sister. Virginia was initially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and was prescribed laxatives.
Though her symptoms persisted she was not referred for specialist treatment to rule out bowel cancer. A colleague of the doctor gave Virginia a full examination and went into her family history as her grandfather had died of bowel cancer at 43. Raising doubts about the possibility of hereditary cancer, the doctor told Virginia she should have a check-up with a specialist. But on July 2002 when Virginia and her teenage daughter Frances Priggen met the GP, he asked them to ignore the advice of his colleague. Priggen, now 20, told the tribunal her mother's doctor reassured them the symptoms were not cancerous. The doctor denied that the conversation ever happened. He also said that he had advised Virginia to undergo a proper investigation but she had refused to do so.