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Row after deanery suspends trainee over Doctors.net comments

By Nigel Praities

A huge row has erupted over doctors' freedom of speech after a trainee was suspended for making offensive comments about a senior medical figure on the website Doctors.net.uk.

The comments – reportedly made about the re-election of Dame Carol Black as the chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges – were made by a trainee in general surgery who was subsequently suspended from the Highland Deanery.

The case has caused uproar on medical websites, with concerns raised over the freedom of users of online forums to criticise medical leaders freely.

The trainee, whose name Pulse has chosen not to reveal, was suspended after a complaint from Professor Elisabeth Paice, dean director of Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education for London.

Speaking to Pulse, Professor Paice said she felt compelled to complain to the postgraduate dean in the North Scotland Region, Professor Gillian Needham, after seeing the ‘excrementous and scatological' language used in the posting.

‘No one wishes to curtail doctors' right to free speech. But it is right that, as in any other walk of life, they do so without recourse to unrestrained personal abuse,' she said.

Dr Tim Ringrose, medical director of Doctors.net.uk, said it had removed the offensive part of the posting as soon as it was alerted to it: ‘We do remind members postings should not contain anything offensive, inflammatory or potentially libellous, but this used some rather strong language that was personal in nature.'

But the suspension has provoked outrage on Doctors.net.uk, with some calling for the suspension of Professor Paice over the issue.

‘This is a total disgrace. Intemperate language is forgivable on any occasion, and especially when someone is emotional. A subsequent apology should suffice,' said Dr Brendan O'Reilly, a retired GP in Wales.

Huge row over online freedom of speech Huge row over online freedom of speech

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