In its second appeal, the GMC successfully challenged the finding of no impairment in relation to dishonesty
Following the GMC’s first successful appeal in GMC v Jagjivan, in June the High Court handed down its judgment in a second appeal: GMC v Theodoropoulos EWHC 1984(Admin).
This case involved an allegation of dishonesty against a consultant ophthalmologist. It was alleged against him that he had altered his GMC register entry to state that he had a licence to practice in the United Kingdom and used the altered document to obtain employment.
The MPT found the Doctor to have been dishonest, that the facts amounted to misconducted, and that his practice was impaired and suspended him for 12 months. In doing so it explained:
“The tribunal carefully considered whether erasure was the more appropriate sanction. It acknowledged that Dr Theodoropoulos’s dishonesty was a serious departure from the principles set out in the GMP and constituted a deliberate disregard for them. However, the tribunal noted that his dishonest behaviour was an isolated incident and did not take place in a clinical setting. The tribunal has noted that it has no evidence of insight or remediation on the part of Dr Theodoropoulos. Dr Theodoropoulos has not communicated with the GMC on this matter since July 2016. However, neither does the tribunal have any evidence that he is incapable of developing insight and of remediating his behaviour, albeit it recognises that this may be a significant challenge. In these circumstances, the tribunal determined that although Dr Theodoropoulos’s behaviour breached a fundamental tenet of the medical profession, it is not fundamentally incompatible with continued registration and it would be disproportionate to erase his name from the medical register at this time”
The GMC appealed, contending that he should have been removed from the register.
The Doctor had not attended the MPT hearing and due to serious ill health he did not attend the hearing in the High Court. The High Court considered, under its inherent jurisdiction, it had the power to proceed in absence and, in the circumstances of this case, it was appropriate to do so. It is noteworthy that it came to this conclusion despite evidence – an anonymous email sent to the court– that the doctor was very seriously ill as a result of a road traffic accident. However Lewis J concluded that there is a public interest in concluding cases expeditiously and he did not have any evidence to suggest that either the doctor or his representative could attend a hearing in the near future.
The appeal was allowed and the doctor erased from the register. The Tribunal had noted the misconduct did not occur in a clinical setting. Although that was true,
“It did, however, involve dishonesty in relation to the qualification system for doctors and in dishonestly seeking to obtain employment, when not eligible, for appointment as a doctor. Such conduct would undermine the trust the public places in doctors. Misconduct does not have to occur in a clinical setting before it renders erasure, rather than suspension, the appropriate sanction.”
The Tribunal had also erred in relying on the fact this was an isolated incident of dishonesty. Lewis J found that although there was only one act of manipulating the entry, it was clearly planned, premeditated and intended that the false document would be used on multiple occasions. He concluded that properly considered the conduct was fundamentally incompatible with ongoing registration.