THE CANTERBURY TALES
So, you are a GP and are delighted that your daughter is engaged. Life is good – her fiancé is a former Royal Marine and their life looks sweet. You are a busy practitioner with your own medico-legal reporting business. You manage, remarkably, to fit in around 500 to 1,000 claimant medico-legal reports a year alongside your work tending to the sick of the parish. But, owning the business means at least you can endow the happy couple.
There is no randy judge and your daughter is not called Virginia – so you are surely safe from the fate that followed in the Physician's Tale – one of the oldest poems in our language to deal with relationships. But sadly, the hubris described in Chaucer's next story, the Pardoner's Tale, as "radix malorem est cupiditas", is certainly one of the oldest sins that can come to bite.
The Physician's Tale
Greed is the root of all evil. In the case that primes this month's newsletter, however, perhaps the mischief should better be described "radix malorem est stupiditas". So let us tell you that:
"… unless I have triacle,
Or elles a draughte of morste and corny ale,
Or but I heere anon a myrie tale,
Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde."
The Canterbury Chronicle might have put it this way:
"A Chester GP, who provided a 'bogus' medical report so a relative could make a false whiplash claim, was suspended for six months after a GMC panel heard his wife put him up to the scam.
"Dr X had produced more than 10,000 reports for use in personal injury claims and provided his services for a Medico-Legal Services Company, formed by wife in 2011.
"Mrs X persuaded her daughter's fiancé, Mr Y, to make a claim following a car crash, in which he sustained minor injuries, the tribunal heard. The former Royal Marine was never examined, but the doctor 'fabricated' injuries and ongoing effects of the accident before sending the form to the Solicitors concerned.
"The scam was exposed when Mr Y dropped the claim and alerted the General Medical Council following a family bust-up around April 2012, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service heard."
Dr X had claimed that he had conducted a physical exam in Mr Y’s home, some 200 miles away, and the information on the report was accurate.
But a fitness to practise panel found Dr X had dishonestly prepared the report and his actions amounted to serious misconduct.
The Chairman of the panel told him: "Your conduct in relation to the fabrication of the medico-legal report was dishonest and fell seriously short of the standards expected of a registered medical practitioner.
"The panel is of the view that your conduct does amount to serious misconduct."
He added: "The panel has seen no evidence of any remediation and notes that during your oral evidence you did not accept that the report you had written was dishonest.
"The panel is of the view that your dishonest behaviour brings the profession into disrepute, and would be viewed as deplorable by other medical professionals.
"Furthermore, because you have not recognised the seriousness of your dishonest behaviour in fabricating a medico-legal report, the panel is concerned there is a risk of your repeating this behaviour."
The Pardoner’s Tale
The Tale is perhaps not quite as unhappy as it might have been. Dr X could have been struck off, but the panel suspended him for six months after hearing from his defence barrister that he acted on the instigation of his wife.
The Chairman said: "Having balanced the public interest with your own interest, the panel concluded that an order of suspension for a period of six months would mark the gravity of your actions, meet the public interest, and be proportionate to the circumstances.
"The panel considers that this period will provide you with sufficient time to reflect upon and develop greater insight into your misconduct."
Dr X was a GP and an experienced expert witness. He would have to attend a review hearing before being allowed back to unrestricted work.
This case is really unfortunate. Not only has Dr X seriously eroded trust and confidence in the medical profession but he has given the Association of British Insurers ammunition to argue that there are "bent" doctors and "crooked" agencies from Canterbury to Chester who need closer regulation. Expect the government to be sympathetic despite there having been more Tory MPs and Ministers who have been censured or resigned over expenses than doctors to require their souls pardoned.
There is also an urgent scramble amongst insurers and claimant solicitors to see whether anyone "examined" by Dr X was given the same degree of thoroughness as he was found to have afforded his future postulant son-in-law. This may yet turn expensive at a number of levels. It is a Tale that will wag for quite some time to come.
By Jonathan Dingle, Barrister-at-Law of 218 Strand and a leader on Specialist Info medico-legal courses.