Doctor seeks right to anonymity
Doctors called to fitness to practise inquiries before the Medical Council should no longer be publicly identified unless found guilty of serious professional misconduct, according to a candidate for election to the council.
Ruairí Hanley, a GP and former Progressive Democrat election candidate, said the existing system of inquiry should be changed to ensure that the council dismisses frivolous or vindictive complaints without causing distressed to the doctor involved.
Dr Hanley is also seeking to make people who lodge “baseless, damaging” complaints against members of his profession subject to possible legal action themselves.
Since 2009, inquiries into doctors have been carried out in public, in contrast to other professions such as nursing. In 2011, 39 complaints against doctors were referred to the council’s fitness to practise committee, resulting in eight practitioners being struck off.
Doctors are entitled to their professional reputations and the presumption of innocence, Dr Hanley said, and should no longer have to “live and work in fear”.
“Good doctors who were innocent of wrongdoing, or who made genuine clinical errors, have been put through hell by an apparently rigid regulatory system and a nakedly hostile media.
“We now live in a nation where medical professionals are paraded before television cameras like criminals en route to trial. National newspapers regularly print fitness to practise inquiries alongside court reports with scant regard for the damage this causes to professional reputations.”
Dr Hanley claimed this “culture of vindictive, media-led, anti-medical witch-hunts” was doing nothing to enhance patient safety.
“It has instead caused a mass movement towards ‘defensive medicine’ among doctors, which ultimately is of no benefit to sick people in this country.”
He said that if elected to the council, he would seek to change the system of regulation to ensure “a greater degree of fairness, decency and natural justice for all”.
The term of office of the current council, which has a 13-12 lay majority, expires at the end of May. Nominations are currently being sought for six of the 12 medical seats, who are elected by the profession.
The remaining 19 members are nominated by various bodies and the Minister for Health.
An election, if required, will be held next month and all members are ultimately appointed by the Minister.