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Identifying Incompetent Surgeons: A Collective Failure to Learn from Public Inquiries

21 Jan 2016, by Informa Insights

20192 Informa Medico Legal P16A02_DelegatePack
Click to view conference agenda

As one of the longest running events in Informa Australia’s history, “Medico Legal Congress” brings together medical and legal professionals from around the country to facilitate discussion and debate on current medico-legal challenges and enables the development of better risk management strategies.

Hon. Geoffrey Davis

We were lucky enough to grab a few minutes from the honourable Geoffrey Davis who is our keynote opening speaker for the 25th Anniversary Medico Legal Congress  for an interview prior the event and get his thoughts on his subject of presentation – Identifying Incompetent Surgeons: A Collective Failure to Learn from Public Inquiries.

He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the topic as well as what he is looking forward to about the Medico Legal Congress 2016.

Here’s the print version of the interview below.

  1. What have been some of the highlights of your illustrious career in and in particular in advising various medical bodies?

Shortly after I retired from the Court of Appeal I commenced the Queensland Public Hospitals Commission of Inquiry which involved, among other things, some incompetent surgeons eg Patel. I was then asked to join the Council of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons as their first non-surgeon member. I served on that Council for 7 years during which time I started being asked to and did give a number of papers (now about 6 in all), mainly on conduct and competence at National Conferences. That still continues. In 2010 I was made an Honorary FRACS.

  1. You are passionate about changing the “culture of concealment” amongst surgeons whom you feel are still not reporting bad doctors and jeopardising the health and safety of their patients. Without giving too much away about your upcoming presentation, are you able to explain some of the ways in which this culture of concealment is being perpetuated?

The culture of concealment is not just a problem with individual surgeons. It exists, more importantly, in Surgical Bodies. All seem unwilling to expose, even for a limited purpose, the names of surgeons involved in adverse events or even preventable adverse events. But unless you identify a surgeon involved in a preventable adverse event, you will never know whether that is part of a pattern of preventable adverse events by that surgeon.

  1. In your experience, what are some of the ways in which surgeons as a group could be identifying and reporting incompetent surgeons?

Surgical bodies should accept the necessity of mortality and morbidity audits at which the name of a surgeon involved in an adverse event should be recorded and an assessment made and recorded of whether that event was preventable. That record should then be kept in order to determine whether that surgeon has a pattern of such events significantly greater than that of his colleagues. Otherwise how can you identify incompetent surgery?

  1. Are there any presentations from the 25th Anniversary Medico Legal Congress that you are particularly looking forward to?

I am particularly in hearing the presentation of Vinay Rane. In particular I am interested to hear how much he thinks that increased legal risk is caused by vanity, fame seeking or financial gain by surgeons rather than by patient demands.

20192 Informa Medico Legal P16A02_DelegatePack

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