The court rules that delaying the investigation would be contrary to public interest
The High Court has declined a bid by a doctor-turned-YouTuber to halt investigations by the Medical Council of New Zealand into her anti-vaccination videos.
In a judgment handed down on 24 November, the court ruled that delaying the investigation would be contrary to public interest.
Bailey v The Medical Council of New Zealand involved a series of YouTube videos posted by Dr Samantha Bailey. The videos called into question PCR testing and the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Bailey described herself as a “medical doctor, author” and a “family doctor based in New Zealand” to her audience of 300,000 YouTube subscribers. However, while she is a registered medical practitioner from Christchurch, she had not held a practising certificate since May.
In October 2020, the Medical Council of New Zealand referred Bailey to a professional conduct committee after receiving several complaints about Bailey’s videos from members of the public and from medical practitioners in New Zealand and the UK.
The council put forth four issues to the committee:
- the circumstances surrounding Bailey’s identification of herself as a doctor and promulgating information about COVID-19 to the public
- whether her conduct was outside the scope of her practice
- her adherence to “good medical practice”
- whether she was practising medicine without a practising certificate in posting the videos
The committee hearing, scheduled for 8 and 9 February 2022, will determine whether Bailey’s videos constituted the practice of medicine and any appropriate disciplinary action.
Bailey asked the High Court to issue an interim order to stay all proceedings and prohibit the council or committee from taking any further action. Bailey asserted in a statement through her lawyer that it was not lawful for the Medical Council of New Zealand to investigate or infringe on her right to freedom of speech under New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.
However, Justice Matthew Palmer agreed with the council’s submission that delaying the investigation would be contrary to public interest; in the interests of justice, he ordered that the disciplinary process be allowed to proceed.
“There is a public interest in soundly based medical practitioner disciplinary processes proceeding,” he said. “The outcome of the council counselling Dr Bailey hardly constitutes irreversible prejudice. Here, I assess the prejudice to Dr Bailey of that occurring as less than the public interest.”