Former Morecambe GP loses appeal after touching female patients intimately without consent

A former Morecambe doctor has lost an appeal after being sanctioned for touching female patients intimately without their consent.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 3:58 pm
The Royakl Courts of Justice in London. Photo: Google Street View

As we reported in October, Dr Raied Haris had sanctions imposed on his ability to practice as a doctor following examinations he conducted on two different women.

The first of the incidents concerned Dr Haris' work at the the Bay Urgent Care out of hours service in Morecambe, where in February 2017 he undertook a non-clinically indicated, intimate examination on a woman without informed consent.

A Medical Practitioners' Tribunal found he pulled down the patient's underwear before performing a vaginal examination that was not necessary.

The second incident took place when working as a GP in the Minor Injuries Unit at Leeds General Infirmary in 2017. On that occasion, he took unnecessary examinations of a woman's buttocks, vagina and breast.

Dr Haris successfully argued he was asexual and had no sexual desires, backed up by statements from his sister and a friend and a psychiatric report.

The tribunal said that his actions on the two women "are at the very least reasonably able to be perceived as overtly sexual" but that following Dr Haris' own defence, "the weight of evidence on this point is in the doctor's favour".

However, at a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Ms Jenni Richards QC, on behalf of the General Medical Council, said it was "wrong to find that there was no sexual motivation" in Mr Haris' actions, "particularly in circumstances where there was no reasonable alternative explanation for [his] behaviour".

But Dr Haris has since taken the case to the Court of Appeal, where three judges agreed that the intentions were sexual, and that the inference was 'overwhelming'.

In the appeal, which took place on May 13, the Court of Appeal judges heard details about both incidents.

They reported: "Patient A had attended the out of hours service complaining of bad stomach pains that had previously been considered gallstones.

"Her mother was in the consultation room, but sitting with her back to the examination. After Dr Haris had asked her to undo her trousers, which she did, he suddenly pulled down her underwear, exposing her pubic region, and began pressing just above her pubic area, at which point she said words to the effect of: "the pain isn't there".

"He replied that he was "checking for lumps" and kept prodding with two fingers in the area."

Without warning, and without gloves, he then examined the patient's genital area.

The judges also heard how Dr Haris examined patient B in a similar manner after she attended hospital with back pain following a fall.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Vandenabeele, who assessed Dr Haris, said that he suffered from a particular medical condition which led to 'abnormalities' in the way in which he interacted with others.

But Dr Vandenabeele accepted in cross-examination that although it was possible for someone on the autistic spectrum to have no interest in sexual relationships, autistic spectrum disorder was not inconsistent with having sexual urges or sexual feelings.

In other words, a diagnosis of Asperger's did not mean that Dr Haris was incapable of having a sexual motivation for acting as he did.

The appeal judges did not believe that this and his self-proclaimed asexuality justified or explained his actions during the physical examinations.

The court report said: "Dr Haris's apparent lack of interest in a sexual relationship, and the consistency of his claimed asexuality with his recent diagnosis by Dr Vandenabeele, do not begin to explain why he groped a patient's buttocks and breasts and performed physical examinations of her vagina and (on a different occasion) that of another patient, in each case without any clinical justification, without warning or obtaining prior consent, without giving or recording any reason for it at the time, and without using gloves.

"In the absence of a plausible innocent explanation for what he did, the facts spoke for themselves. A sexual motive was plainly more likely than not; I would go so far as to say that that inference was overwhelming."

All three judges opted to dismiss the appeal, saying it was "unquestionably right" to find that the only rational conclusion available was that the allegation that the conduct was sexually motivated had been proved.