Doctor accused of performing 'unnecessary rectal exam' to feel large tumour

An anaesthetist who performed an unnecessary rectal examination on a patient at the invitation of a surgeon who told him it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” can return to work – at least temporarily.

Anaesthetist Dr Adam Hill allegedly rectally examined a 37-year-old male patient in November 2018 at a NSW hospital despite nurses requesting more than once that he stop.

Dr Hill’s registration was suspended in March by the Medical Council of NSW after a complaint was made about the superfluous examination.

But on Wednesday the NSW Civil and Administration Tribunal ruled Dr Hill could return to work “pending the hearing and determination of the appeal” against his suspension.

The patient had not consented to the examination, the medical council determined. Source: Getty/File
The patient had not consented to the examination, the medical council determined. Source: Getty/File

The patient had been admitted for a colonoscopy and biopsy of a posterior rectal mass, according to documents before the tribunal.

The colorectal surgeon who invited Dr Hill to examine the patient said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to feel the large tumour, Acting Judge Jennifer Boland said in Wednesday’s ruling.

The surgeon also said he’d photographed Dr Hill on his mobile phone and would distribute the pictures to other anaesthetists.

The medical council determined the patient had not consented to the rectal examination by Dr Hill and there was no medical reason for it.

Anaesthetist admits he was not giving a second opinion

Dr Hill admitted at a hearing he was “not giving a second opinion, that he was motivated out of clinical curiosity and that the rectal examination was outside his scope of practice as an anaesthetist,” according to the council.

The hospital’s chief executive officer in December wrote to Dr Hill stating “your manner during the procedure was to treat this as a joke” – although Dr Hill disputes that finding.

In the same letter, the chief executive alleged “one or more” members of the nursing staff requested he stop the rectal examination however that was “ignored or not responded to”.

Dr Hill’s appeal against the council’s suspension is listed for May 24.

He argues the ban is draconian given he’s acknowledged wrongdoing, expressed remorse and the behaviour likely won’t be repeated.

The anaesthetist requested his name be suppressed but Acting Judge Boland dismissed that application.

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