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Doc shouldn't have let elderly woman drive

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016 Darren Cartwright

A Gold Coast doctor has avoided referral to the Medical Board despite a coroner's scathing assessment of him sanctioning an elderly woman to drive again, only for her to die in a car crash a week later.

Coroner James McDougall found that Dr Brian Purtle failed to adhere to guidelines and did not try to access the medical records of 75-year-old Ruth Capp, whom he had been treating for only nine months, before signing a form to say she was fit to drive.

Ms Capp died in July 18, 2013 when the car she was driving veered onto the wrong side of the road and collided with a maxi taxi.

Her licence had been reinstated on July 11, 2013, less than 17 months after it had been cancelled.

The coroner's report stated Ms Capps had a number of ailments including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, chronic insomnia and chronic lower back pain, osteoarthritis and sleep apnoea.

When Dr Purtle was asked during the inquest if he'd been aware of Ms Capps' complete medical history and the reason her licence had been cancelled, would he still have issued her with a medical certificate allowing her to drive, he answered, "yes".

Mr McDougall found Ms Capps was "not fit" to hold a driver's licence and that Dr Purtle "clearly had a limited understanding" as to why her licence had been cancelled.

He said it was either "arrogance" or "a serious lack of judgment" that, after all the evidence presented during the inquest, Dr Purtle said he would still have consented to Ms Capps driving again.

"I find that Dr Purtle failed to follow and apply the applicable guidelines when assessing Ms Capps' fitness to drive," the coroner said.

"During the inquest, Dr Purtle did not demonstrate any insight into his conduct and failings.

"I have considered referring Dr Purtle to the Medical Board, however I hold out reasonable hope that he will reflect on these sorry circumstances and behave differently in future."

Mr McDougall also recommended the Department of Main Roads and Transport make it a priority to review its processes and policies relating to medical reporting for driver's licence applications.

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