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Exclusive: GMC admits error in taking apology as admission of guilt

Exclusive: GMC admits error in taking apology as admission of guilt

Exclusive The GMC has acknowledged that it was wrong to suggest to an MPTS tribunal that a doctor’s apology to a patient was an admission of guilt.

The regulator told Pulse today that its ethical guidance ‘is clear that a doctor apologising to a patient does not mean that they are admitting legal liability’ and it will make its legal representatives aware of this ‘for future cases’.

GMC made the comment in response to Pulse’s report on a MPTS tribunal in which the GMC had recommended that a doctor’s apology over a patient’s distress should be taken as an admission of wrongdoing.

Dr Nithya Santhanalakshmi Shunmugavel Pandian was suspended for two months after a tribunal found that her actions were ‘dishonest’ and amounted to ‘serious misconduct’ when she was found to have recorded information about a patient without having completed the necessary examinations.

The patient claimed that Dr Pandian did not listen to her heart or breathing, and did not examine her abdomen, despite recording results of these examinations in her notes.

In 2019, Dr Pandian apologised to the patient ‘for all the distress’ she went through because of the incident, and in its allegation of dishonesty the GMC suggested this was an admission of guilt, as ‘the apology would only make sense if Dr Pandian had not examined’ the patient.

This was seemingly contrary to the GMC’s own ethical guidance which states that ‘apologising to a patient does not mean that you are admitting legal liability for what has happened’ when a patient has suffered ‘harm or distress’.

Although it still reached a conclusion of dishonesty, MPTS dismissed this suggestion from the regulator, saying ‘the apology was not an admission’,

In response to the ruling some doctors expressed concerns around the risk of apologising to patients. But GMC has clarified today that their ethical guidance stands, and suggested it will ensure similar situations do not arise in future.

A spokesperson for the regulator told Pulse: ‘It is very important that doctors feel confident offering an apology to their patients, where appropriate.

‘Our guidance on being open and honest with patients is clear that a doctor apologising to a patient does not mean that they are admitting legal liability.

‘We will draw attention to our guidance to Counsel who act on our behalf so that they are aware for future cases.’

In 2019 Dr Pandian said she believes she performed the examinations, adding: ‘If Patient A feels that I documented this without examination then I sincerely apologise for all the distress that Patient A went through because of this.’



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

SUBHASH BHATT 1 June, 2023 6:01 pm

GMC’s apology as error is admission of guilt 😂

Iain Chalmers 1 June, 2023 6:58 pm

It’s pretty poor if others have to point out GMC aren’t following their own published guidance. Suggest 2 thing?

a) Review case, conclusions & sanction?

b) Vote of “no confidence” in organisation though doubt anything can come of it?

Rathnam Chandrasekhar 1 June, 2023 8:45 pm

GMC acts as Judge and Jury
Recent cases ( lap top case )all show irresponsible and callous if not hostile attitudes towards Doctors
Doctors pay for the upkeep and maintenance of a organisation which is bigoted and Prejudiced .
GMC does without a doubt racial profiling
Differential assessment of Black and ethnic minority groups, shame on GMC
GMC needs to be investigated and punished for all wrong doings to doctors

John Graham Munro 1 June, 2023 11:06 pm

A Defence Organisation once told me ”Don’t———at this stage—– say you’re sorry”.

Centreground Centreground 2 June, 2023 10:32 am

My opinion is that many of these types of regulatory organisations are full of dysfunctional individuals who migrate to such positions and there should be routine testing for personality disorder traits for these institutions

Truth Finder 2 June, 2023 11:01 am

This organization is unfit for purpose and has lost the profession’s mandate. It cannot even follow their own guidance showing how ridiculous the guidance is. No one should be in the regulatory body if they are not working clinicians to keep in touch with the practice climate. Clinicians cannot follow anyone who teach but cannot do.

Steve McOne 2 June, 2023 4:31 pm

Take a page from BoJo’s book, don’t back down, just double down. Apology? What apology!?

Anonymous 2 June, 2023 7:54 pm

GMC must face consequences. These old white racists need to retire.

Syed Abdullah Hussaini 3 June, 2023 6:32 pm

Today on the phone working for 111, a patient got extremely aggressive because we had called him later than he had been promised (2 hour disposition)- Was going to apologise for the delay in calling him back, but thought of the GMC, and this case, and had second thoughts about doing it. This is constant fear-mongering by the regulator. Very absurd and very insensitive statement made by the GMC. Unbelievable!

Decorum Est 4 June, 2023 12:22 pm

We pay considerable monies (over £100million a year) to the GMC, an organisation that does more harm than good, is racist, ignorant of fundamental contemporary medical concerns, ignorant of legal concepts and demonstrates contempt for their charges rather than goodwill!

Just My Opinion 5 June, 2023 12:06 pm

Don’t write reflective logs, it will be used against you.

Don’t apologise, it will be used against you.