More doctors could be given anonymity at fit-to-practise inquiries, law conference told
Not naming doctors could balance need for public inquiry and reputational damage
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns: he noted the extensive media coverage of a fitness-to- practise inquiry involving Dr Martin Corbally, formerly of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.
A legal adviser to the Medical Council has suggested doctors facing fitness-to-practise inquiries could be granted anonymity in more cases following a judgment at the High Court.
At a law conference on oral hearings and tribunals in Dublin at the weekend, Séamus Woulfe SC said an inquiry committee could grant anonymity to the person facing allegations “at least in cases were either the subject matter of the inquiry gave rise to a greater likelihood of sensational publicity” or “if the person facing the allegation can actually produce medical evidence of damage to their health”.
Medical Council fitness-to- practise inquiries were held in private until the introduction of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, which made public hearings the default position.
Since then, most hearings have been in public, in many cases with patients granted anonymity, but doctors involved have rarely been granted it.
Mr Woulfe highlighted a case in which president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns noted the extensive media coverage of a fitness-to- practise inquiry involving Dr Martin Corbally, formerly of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. He said if the inquiry had been before a judge and jury, the coverage “would most certainly have caused the trial to be aborted”.
Mr Woulfe said the findings highlighted the potential damage caused by a public hearing. “In a jurisdiction where we have a Constitution that says you have a constitutional right to your good name, it’s difficult to reconcile what is being said there with the Constitutional guarantees.”
The possibility of making anonymous a person facing a public inquiry could be a better way of achieving a balance between the matter being aired in public and the damage the publicity could do to the person facing the allegations.