If the conversation was considered confidential then recording it without the consent of all involved could be considered a criminal act. Placing the phone where the doctor could see it is not the same as getting his consent. He would have had to know that the phone was being used to record him.
If you want to record it for your own personal use later, that is probably not going to result in anything. But if you try and use it against the doctor, you could be charged with illegal recording.
Because you mention something unethical, I recommend you consult with an attorney before doing anything with the recording.
Why not just ask for permission?
California Penal Code makes it a crime to record in person or electronic conversation if it is a confidential communication. If you don't ask permission of all those being recorded you are breaking the law. If they did something "unethical" and you used it you would be admitting to criminal activity and subject yourself to prosecution.
This is for general information only. Nothing in this information should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship nor shall any of this information be construed as providing legal advice. Laws change over time and differ from state to state. These answers are based on California Law.Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship is established.
California law requires that you obtain consent prior to recording a "confidential communication." See, California Penal Code, Section 632.
"Confidential Communications" are conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See, Flanagan v. Flanagan (2002) 27 Cal.4th 766.
Based on this definition, a communication made in a public place can also be considered a "confidential communication" so it's always best practice to obtain consent prior to recording.
California Penal Code, Section 637.2 states that a violation of law could result in pretty severe penalties: the greater of $5,000 or 3x actual damages. This is true of each violation so recording 5 confidential communications without consent could result in a minimum of $25,000 in damages.
This information is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is intended for general informational purposes only. Said information is given in the context of California law.