It was interesting to read the Sunday Times newspaper’s, front page article a week ago in relation to the unnamed obstetrician/ gynaecologist recently struck off from practise in Western Australia.
I was particularly interested to read the newspapers’ editorial column concerning their strong view that the ongoing suppression order, prohibiting publication of the particular Doctors details, was inappropriate.
There is a clear public interest in the broader community being made aware of the identity of the relevant practitioner (or other doctors in such cases). This has 2 primary aspects:
- an entitlement on the part of former and prospective patients to be aware of the conduct of this practitioner.
- as a strong deterrent against similar conduct by other health professionals (the “shame” factor)
Clearly from the report there were 2 factors tempering this, in this particular case. These no doubt lead to the relevant suppression order being made by Judge Chaney:
1. Firstly, it is clear that though doubts may exist concerning such opinions, there was evidence before the Tribunal that the relevant Doctor was psychiatric fragile and at some risk of suicide or self harm in the event that his name was published.
As no doubt emphasised by his representative before the Tribunal, the potential for such harm if the suppression order was lifted would seem a very powerful consideration indeed.
2. Secondly, it is clearly the fact that the relevant Doctor is no longer practising in Western Australia or elsewhere in Australia. As such, there is no necessary concern for the Tribunal as to potential harm to future patients coming under his care.
There is also some suggestion that former patients of the practitioner had been informed of the allegations brought which further ameliorates this consideration.
In these circumstances, I can well understand Judge Chaney’s conclusions, unpopular though they may be. Certainly though, it would be hoped that once "risk" to the Doctor’s health has reduced, his details will be released.