‘Double life’: Doctor’s huge fine over drug lie
AN ANAESTHETIST who falsely told a health regulator that he had never supplied methylamphetamines or possessed illicit drugs has been hit with a maximum $30,000 fine.
Dr Gregory Euston was given a three-year jail term, but immediately released on parole, after pleading guilty to four drug supply and three drug possession charges in 2015.
A tribunal said it was clear from text messages around the time of his offending that the specialist anaesthetist was involved in "the unsavoury drug world'', leading "a double life''.
After being charged, Dr Euston denied to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority, through a solicitor, that he had ever supplied or possessed dangerous drugs.
As a result of the criminal charges, Dr Euston's role as a visiting medical officer in anaesthetics at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital was suspended in 2013.
He resigned from the hospital last year and his position as a senior lecturer at University of Queensland also ceased.
Dr Euston continues to work full-time in private practice, under drug testing conditions.
The Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, anaesthetist has spent about $30,0000 on drug-tests over the past five and a half years.
He still has to present for a urine drug screening test every three days and hair drug analysis every three months, the tribunal heard.
After a hearing of disciplinary charges brought by the Health Ombudsman, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal did not accept that Dr Euston was an ice user.
He admitted to developing a tolerance for illicit recreational drug use, while socialising, but said from late 2012 he had removed himself from any involvement in the drug culture.
Dr Euston and his partner John Sadleir were charged in 2013, after police found methylamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis in their Chapel Hill home bedroom.
Dr Euston's partner, who told police the drugs belonged to him, pleaded guilty to drug possession and was given a 15-month jail term, but immediately released on parole.
"Dr Euston has removed himself from any connection with, or involvement in, the recreational drug scene,'' QCAT found.
The tribunal accepted he had completely reformed his character and behaviour and was "extremely highly regarded'' as someone who had empathy for patients and cared deeply for colleagues.
The Health Ombudsman submitted that Dr Euston's conduct in supplying and possessing illicit drugs was not driven by an addiction, impairment or financial need.
Text messages had revealed a familiarity with, and contacts in, the drug-dealing environment, the tribunal was told.
At his sentence, Justice Byrne said: "Methamphetamine has a very significant potential for harm in the community.
"As a medical practitioner, (Dr Euston) ought to have been expected to appreciate that better than most.''
While the Health Ombudsman asked for Dr Euston's registration to be suspended, the tribunal reprimanded him for professional misconduct and imposed a fine.
"The maximum fine permitted by the legislature is $30,000,'' the tribunal said.
"In this case, so as to recognise the seriousness with which the tribunal views the conduct, the tribunal considers this would be an appropriate case for the imposition of the maximum fine.''
The tribunal accepted Dr Euston had shown great insight and remorse and said he had already paid a significant price for his misconduct and it chose not to impose any suspension.