A new medico-legal support for doctors subject to complaints in Ireland was launched in Dublin this week.
The new company, Medical Advocates, will offer a subscription-based medical support service providing legal & reputational advice for doctors who are the subject of a complaint to the Irish Medical Council.
The new organisation has been formed to support doctors currently facing severe difficulties in trying to deal with regulatory complaints.
Ms. Sylvia Green, who is a consultant to Medical Advocates and a qualified lawyer said: “We are aware of the profound difficulties facing doctors in Ireland in dealing with regulatory complaints in relation to obtaining effective legal representation and support.
“These needs are further increased should the complaint then proceed to a Fitness To Practice (FTP) hearing given its potential effects on the doctor’s professional reputation & livelihood”.
“We believe these threats will continue to grow in the years to come for a number of reasons. Firstly, the year-on-year increases in the number of complaints to the Council about doctors are likely to continue.
“In addition, the media coverage of FTP hearings amplifies the physical and emotional toll on doctors even if they are cleared of any finding of fault. Finally, a significant number of doctors are refused legal representation by their provider of medical indemnity which then makes it very likely a severe sanction will be applied by the Council,” she explained.
“What doctors are often unaware of is that their malpractice indemnifier may choose not to provide legal representation in regulatory hearings, as there is no formal guarantee they will be provided with this specific expertise. That is why we have chosen to provide an explicit guarantee of this support to all our subscribers,” she added.
It is essential that doctors in these circumstances have a full range of support available to them, according to Dr. David Walsh, who is a support consultant to the Medical Advocates service.
“The strong collegiate, legal & reputational expertise provided by Medical Advocates are essential elements based on my personal experience of supporting colleagues over recent years. This is particularly so because of the requirement of the Council to promote enquiries in public under the 2007 Medical Practitioners Act”.
The cost of the service is an annual tax deductible cost of €295. Mr. John Quinn of Noble Law Solicitors, who are supporting the new service, believes this is a very worthwhile service for doctors.
“The unique feature of this service is the written guarantee of support by a team focused on medical regulatory matters. Doctors are vulnerable during the complaint process and our job is to be with them every step of the way”.
The Principal of Noble Law Solicitors, Felix McTiernan, said: “Our focus is to act as ‘the doctors’ lawyers’ in vindicating the legal interests of medical doctors in Ireland in regulatory and related matters. As a result we do not act in negligence actions against doctors. This will reassure doctors subscribing to the Medical Advocates Guarantee that they have an expert, trusted and independent legal team on their side”.
When asked whether doctors were likely to take up the Medical Advocates Guarantee, Ms. Green pointed out:
“Our society is driven by a complaints culture promoted both by trends in social media and by increasing patient expectations. This rising number and intensity of complaints are part and parcel of modern society to which there are no current countervailing trends. Thus there is a significant and growing need for such a service which I am confident doctors will readily recognise and wish to join”.
Pictured: Announcing the launch of Medical Advocates in Dublin this week were (L-R) John Quinn, Noble Law Solicitors, Sylvia Green, Consultant, Felix McTiernan, Noble Law Solicitors and Dr David Walsh, Consultant