Anne O’Sullivan
Psychiatrist crossed line
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The West Australian (Perth)

April 30, 2024 Tuesday
First Edition

Copyright 2024 West Australian NewsPapers Limited All Rights Reserved

Section: MAI; Pg. 15

Length: 348 words

A leading psychiatrist has been banned from practice for 18 months after becoming so entangled with a patient that the vulnerable woman referred to her as Mum – and had a tribute to her tattooed on her arm.

Anne O’Sullivan was a psychiatric spokesperson for the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association while working as the clinical leader for the emergency psychiatry team at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

She also achieved a fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and advocated for more mental health resourcing in WA. However, legal documents have now revealed that Dr O’Sullivan has been suspended since late 2022, after the extraordinary relationship with a suicidal patient she met at the hospital emerged.

The woman presented in September 2021 with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, unstable personality disorder, major depressive disorder, anorexia and evidence of self-harm.

Dr O’Sullivan became her treating psychiatrist, providing clinical services for months. But, by January the following year, medical authorities say the pair had also entered “into a close personal relationship”.

That included multiple meetings, visits at home, sleepovers, and buying the patient gifts – including groceries, mobile phone credit, coffee, clothes, petrol and furniture. Dr O’Sullivan also helped the woman care for her horses, including feeding them and paying agistment fees.

In February 2022, the patient got a large tattoo on her arm dedicated to the doctor and from March to April lived at Dr O’Sullivan’s house.

In March, the doctor also bought the woman an $11,000 Nissan Navara and then paid for $3000 of repairs.

And in the same month, Dr O’Sullivan was also privately prescribing the woman drugs to treat hypertension.

After being suspended in December 2022, Dr O’Sullivan was allowed back to work in February 2023 – on the condition she had no contact with her patient-turned-close friend. But she breached those conditions multiple times, with phone records showing regular contact between the pair.

She was banned until October 2025.