Fitness to Practise Panel Hearing 8-15 September 2008
The Panel inquired into whether Dr RK had knowingly signed a declaration and submitted work that was not his own. The GMC case further stated that the conduct of the doctor was misleading and dishonest. The case was determined on the civil standard of proof. The Panel found against the doctor and determined he had been dishonest in submitting his paper.
At the impairment stage of proceedings, the determination of the Panel stated:
“The Panel takes a serious view of your dishonest conduct. You falsely claimed the project was your own work and when confronted by the Deanery you maintained the work was your own. Your behaviour was such as to undermine public confidence in the medical profession.
The Panel is aware of its responsibility to protect the public interest, particularly with reference to maintaining public confidence in the profession and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The public are entitled to expect that doctors will be honest and trustworthy at all times. In your actions you fell seriously short of the standards of conduct and honesty expected to be upheld by a medical practitioner. The Panel is therefore satisfied that, due to your deliberate dishonesty, your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct.”
As the practitioner was found impaired, the question of what sanction, if any, was appropriate in the circumstances was considered. The Indicative Sanctions Guidance of the GMC is very clear on the issue of dishonesty. At paragraph 43, it states that:
“The GMC’s guidance, Good Medical Practice, states that registered doctors must be honest and trustworthy, and must avoid abusing their position as a doctor.”
At paragraph 44, it goes on to say:
“Dishonesty, even where it does not result in direct harm to patients… is particularly serious because it undermines the trust the public place in the profession. Examples of dishonesty in professional practice could include defrauding an employer…, inaccurate or misleading information on a C.V. and failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that statements made on formal documents are accurate.”
The Panel considered that a profession’s most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence it inspires in members of the public. It cited the words of Lord Bingham, Master of the Rolls in the case of Bolton v Law Society, quoted in the Privy Council case of Dr Gupta (2001).
“The reputation of the profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual member. Membership of a profession brings many benefits, but that is part of the price.”
The Panel considered the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance on the public interest, which includes, amongst other things, the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour.
An aggravating feature of the case was the extent to which Dr RK continued to deny that his behaviour was dishonest. The Panel stated such dishonesty fundamentally undermines the trust which the public places in the medical profession and cannot be tolerated. Honesty and trustworthiness are two of the most important characteristics which doctors are expected to demonstrate and the confidence of the public and the reputation of the medical profession depend upon them.
The Panel determined in all the circumstances to suspend Dr RK for a period of 2 months.