Former attorney general attacks Irish doctors

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 09 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1407
  1. Doug Payne
  1. Dublin

    Doctors are responsible for the Republic of Ireland's growing “compensation culture” and the flood of bogus compensation claims, the former attorney general, Harry Whelehan, said in a scathing attack during the recent annual general meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation.

    “If it is the case that there is a wholesale rip off in the system,” said Mr Whelehan, “it is because bogus patients are getting a lift off by their medical practitioners.” Mr Whelehan, a barrister with an extensive personal injuries practice, spoke without restraint when he told the assembled doctors that any such wholesale abuse was “on the back of bad practice” by doctors operating in a “semipolitical, sly way rather than squaring up to the client.” He said that GPs often gave plaintiffs an expectation of support for bogus claims, sometimes “just to get them out of their hair.”

    Mr Whelehan also attacked the attitude of doctors who came to court to give evidence in personal injury cases. He said that his unfortunate experience was of doctors being “not helpful, not good, very defensive, and very unsupportive of the system.” It was, he added, almost impossible to get doctors to consult barristers in personal injury cases. “By and large they do not regard themselves as having a civil obligation to play an active, definitive, responsible role in the system. You are cynical about it but don't do what is required for the discharge of your professional duty to yourself and your client. You complain about the level of awards but you don't do what is required of you to be true and honest to your patients,” he concluded.

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