Doctor cheated in postgraduate exam


A DOCTOR working in psychiatry who cheated in a postgraduate examination was yesterday found guilty of professional misconduct by the Irish Medical Council.

A fitness to practise inquiry held by the council heard that Dr Muhammad Zafar Iqbal (44) from Pakistan had worked at a number of Irish hospitals, including St Fintan’s in Laois, St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe and St Brendan’s in Dublin, before travelling to the Britain in 2004.

While working there as a locum staff doctor for Kent and Medway NHS Trust he enrolled on an MSc postgraduate degree programme and on September 14th, 2006, sat an end of module examination entitled “The practice of evidence-based mental health care”. He was seen talking a number of times during the exam and when his answers were compared later with the candidate who had sat next to him they were remarkably similar. Not only did they get the same questions right in a multiple choice round, they also got the same ones wrong and had virtually the same spelling mistakes.

While initially denying he cheated, Dr Iqbal admitted what he had done when brought before the General Medical Council (GMC) in Britain. He said it happened because he was under stress. The GMC found him guilty of professional misconduct and he was suspended from its medical register for a year in March 2009.

The Irish Medical Council was informed of the GMC ruling and given Dr Iqbal was registered to work here, it held its own fitness to practise inquiry into his conduct.

Dr Iqbal, who attended the hearing and represented himself, said it was the only mistake he made in his career and no patient was harmed as a result. He apologised and said there would be no repetition of the “single incident”. What happened would remain with him for life. He stressed he had served his 12-month suspension and had now been offered another job in the UK.

He handed in a number of testimonials stating he had always been a reliable and hard-working doctor and had done a number of courses in ethics and other matters during his period of suspension.

The fitness to practise committee, chaired by Dr Gerard Bury, found the allegations against Dr Iqbal, which he admitted, amounted to professional misconduct. His behaviour, Dr Bury, said fell seriously short of the standards expected of a doctor. The committee noted he had undertaken not to repeat his behaviour and had already been suspended from the medical register in the UK. The committee will recommend to a meeting of the full medical council that he be censured.