Doctor fights 'corrupt' suspension over wife's death

A doctor who waited more than three hours to call an ambulance for his dying wife has claimed he could not have contacted emergency services while resuscitating her.

Respiratory and sleep physician Peter Spencer is appealing the Medical Board of Australia's suspension of his medical registration after a coroner recommended him for negligent homicide charges over his wife's death.

He represented himself at a virtual Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing on Thursday, where he appeared visibly irritated and had to be muted due to his constant interruptions.

Mayumi Spencer, 29, died in their Melbourne apartment from cocaine toxicity after a night out with Dr Spencer in January 2015, a coroner found.

Dr Spencer tried to resuscitate her about 4am after she started vomiting and had a fit, and then attempted to perform a cricothyroidotomy using a kitchen knife and pen.

A cricothyroidotomy involves making an incision to unblock a person's airways, but the procedure was unsuccessful.

In June 2023, Victorian coroner John Cain found Dr Spencer had waited three-and-a-half hours to call for an ambulance, despite his wife's inability to breathe.

Paramedics arrived to find Mrs Spencer lying on the floor of their lounge room, as Dr Spencer performed CPR using "pretty gentle" compressions, the coroner was told.

Judge Cain referred Dr Spencer to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a charge of negligent manslaughter, due to his delay in seeking medical assistance and his duty of care to her.

He has not yet been charged, but VCAT was told Victoria Police were communicating with prosecutors about the charge in late 2023.

The Medical Board suspended Dr Spencer's practitioner registration in light of the finding, as they said it was in the public interest to do so.

"The applicant poses a serious risk to persons and it is necessary to take immediate action to protect public health or safety," the board's barrister Sarah Keating said on Thursday.

"The correct and preferable decision is to confirm the immediate action decision to protect the public confidence in the reputation of the medical profession and the system of regulation."

She detailed the coroner's findings about a history of family violence between Dr Spencer and his wife, and allegations he concealed information from police and was using cocaine.

Ms Keating said, on the evidence before the coroner, there were two-and-a-half hours where Dr Spencer was not performing CPR on his wife and could have called an ambulance.

But Dr Spencer claimed he could not have called an ambulance as it would have resulted in "prolonged downtime without CPR".

"If I had stopped doing resus and went to find the phones, and called an ambulance, and they took 11 minutes to get there, we're looking at 30 minutes at the earliest point," he said.

"That is not consistent with survival ... there is no case to answer for here."

He denied any allegations of drug use or family violence, claiming his wife had apologised to him by reading out a birthday card from her.

Dr Spencer said the DPP had already reviewed his case before the coroner's findings last year and decided not to charge him.

He labelled the coronial findings and board's decision to suspend him as "corrupt" and accused police of lying.

"I doubt very much the police will want to take this to trial because they will endanger themselves to imprisonment on charges of perjury," he told the tribunal.

VCAT board members reserved their decision to a later date.

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