This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

A faulty production line

Report this comment to a moderator

Please fill in the form below if you think a comment is unsuitable. Your comments will be sent to our moderator for review.

Report comment to moderator

Required fields.


Fitness-to-practise investigations make sick doctors sicker


There seem to be several distinctive issues involved : (1) For those who were referred to GMC due to an 'illness' as a reason of not being 'fit' to practise , there is a lack of transparency of how to define a level of competence to practise as acceptable in order to return that individual doctor back to work. In many cases, the illness is a chronic one i.e. while the illness can be well controlled and stabilised , it cannot be cured. GMC did not appear to be able to understand this common sense . It underestimated the gruelling and devastating effects of its intimidating , 'one size fits all' disciplinary sanction or proceeding on recovery of the illness.Instead of emphasising to help the individual doctor to recognise what he/she could or could not do in daily practice and get appropriate help and therapy, the sanction appeared to have caused further deterioration of the illness , particularly mental ones and hence become a form of punishment itself even before a verdict was reached . This is procedural injustice . In those cases where the individual took his/her life as the 'endpoint' , the penalty was death. (2)Back to the principles of Common Law , the prosecution always have to find evidence(s) to prove the defendant guilty . Of course, the defendant has to co-operate during the proceeding . But he/she remains innocent and cannot be prematurely 'incarcerated' in the absence of sufficient evidence to prosecute. One can argue GMC is not a judicial or legal representation but GMC is a pillar of the society with the authority to regulate , it is disconcerting if it by any chance betrayed the spirit of Common Law. (3) As far as an allegation was brought along to GMC , it appeared anyone could be the 'plaintiff' without much anxiety of the outcomes . This might sound politically correct for whistleblowing but is ,in itself ,dangerously flawed because it did not prevent the 'defendant' to counter-attack with a separate allegation . To GMC , they only focused on taking the 'defendant' through its disciplinary sanction(s). Ultimately , it was in fact the duty of candour which was betrayed if the real culprit was let loose. My heart goes to the families of all these colleagues who lost their lives and one would believe the tragedies were avoidable . There was no need for them to carry the allegations into the graves. Yes. Protecting patients is a priority but it has to be done in a fair and justified way. The reason why the Lady Justice was blindfolded was about impartiality and objectivity . We are scholars. Confucius urged all scholars to be resolute practising benevolence , fairness and justice over 2000 years ago. I am not too sure whether GMC understands that. It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one. Voltaire Zadig (1747)

Posted date

17 Jan 2015

Posted time