Shooting the messenger and kicking him while he’s down

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The Australian Medical Board has recently further indicated the need for it to be held accountable, writes Professor Paddy Dewan.

Supporters at Prof Dewan's October 5 hearing. (Image courtesy Vince de la Pena.)

INDEPENDENT AUSTRALIA recently published the story of a vindictive dysfunctional medical board, who have put enormous resources into vilification of an individual ― a conclusion that is further echoed by recent events.

The initial “case” against me was referred to the Medical Board of Victoria by an administrator from the Western Network in the West of Melbourne following a letter received from Dr Michael Harari, a paediatrician who had not examined the child prior to declaring irretrievable harm, which has not occurred.

The VCAT panel found against me and is going to level its “punishment” on Friday (5th October).  They “prefer” the evidence of the parents, noting the mother states that she was not in my consulting rooms on 22nd December 2003, as I had dated the consent form (which is my usual practice). However, she also signed a Medicare form with the same date, and her two boys were photographed for a newspaper article in The Age that was published the next day. The mother claims she signed a blank consent! And they “prefer” her evidence.

I am guilty of doing the correct operation for the right indication with an appropriate degree of medical management as judged from the history given by the parents in 2003. I am guilty of doing the surgery well and of having a good outcome.  The construct of the Medical Board and VCAT is a “cook-up”, as suggested by what has happened recently.

On the morning of 20th September 2012, I was rung by Carol Geyer, the lawyer for the Australian Medical Board; I was in Mauritius operating on complex cases at the invitation of the Mauritian government … for the 14th time in 12 years.

I was informed that a “new case” was to be referred to the immediate action committee of the Medical Board. When asked whether the family were involved, I was told no.  I noted I had previously been told, in 2004, that the 98 cases I had reported to the Board would not be actioned until I recruited the involvement of the board; a discussion that was held with the Victorian Medical Board lawyer and the Registrar to the Board. When I did phone one family that was not known to me, the Victorian Medical Board then accused and found me guilty of “unprofessional conduct”. A cook-up.

Prof Dewan with his team of surgeons in Mauritius in 2006.

Having highlighted the above, I politely suggested that it was the middle of the night and that I would be going back to sleep. Isn’t sleep deprivation one of the forms of torture?

I later phoned the family of the “new case”, as I was aware of their wish for me to continue to be involved in their son’s care. They had told me that they'd been threatened that they would have to give evidence against me by a surgeon they had gone to after I was unable to find a hospital that had both the facilities and political will to assist a boy with severe constipation and a congenital idiopathic megarectum.  The surgeon who had given the second opinion is reported to have said to them. “I have never heard of this surgery”. “No-one in Australia would do the surgery”. “You will have to give evidence against Professor Dewan”. He omitted to say that 15 cases were reported from Sydney to a meeting he was at in Fiji in 2009 ― a report that included an 8 month old.

I later received the email containing the “show cause” document.

I was to leave Mauritius on Sunday 23rd, and was expected to reply to the proposal that “Professor Dewan is a threat to the Australian public, for having recommended the surgery on the “new case””.

After my conversation with the father of the “new case”, the Medical Board then sent me a further email….demanding that I not be in contact with the family.

I sent an email suggesting that I was still the treating doctor…they sent an email saying I could treat the patient, but could not discuss the case, and I could not be in contact with “anyone who might be asked to give evidence in the case”. They seem to have forgotten the patient’s welfare in their first email.

Also, it is reported to me, Carol Geyer rang my legal team to state that the outcome from the VCAT hearing of the 2004 case would be prejudiced by the content of my website. That is, the deliberation on the care of a patient will be likely to be more adverse because I have chosen to express my human right of freedom of speech.

I was to attend an immediate action committee meeting on Thursday 27th, because I was considered a "danger to the Australian public" for recommending surgery on a boy. The threat is so serious that the meeting was postponed, possibly because the family of the “new case” has reported the behaviour of the second opinion surgeon to the Health Ombudsman and, more importantly, they have complained to the Ombudsman about the Medical Board's failure of duty of care to the family.

Surely, these new events indicate that, as the e-petition at suggests, there should be an investigation into the handling of the case against me ― both by the Australian Medical Board and VCAT.

I can only trust that the public will appropriately respond to the call for accountability of the Australian Medical Board, by gathering on the steps of VCAT at 9am on Friday 5th October 2012 at 55 King Street, Melbourne.

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