A consultant surgeon in England was found guilty of serious professional misconduct last week for publishing fraudulent research results.
Mr Anjan Kumar Banerjee, aged 41, of the Royal Halifax Infirmary, was suspended for a year by the General Medical Council for publishing an article in Gut in December 1990 that contained information which “was deliberately falsified.”
“The outcome was that a wholly misleading article went into circulation,” said Mr Rodney Yates, chairman of the professional conduct committee.
In addition to publishing a fraudulent article in Gut—a charge which the surgeon had denied—Mr Banerjee admitted that in 1990 he submitted an abstract to the British Society of Gastroenterology, the contents of which had been falsified. He claimed the results were based on urine samples from “12 healthy adults” whereas the samples were in fact of his own urine.
Mr Yates said: “Medical research is central to the advance of medical practice and must always be conducted with scrupulous honesty and integrity. It is highly irresponsible, and potentially dangerous for patients, for a doctor to falsify research.
“The committee consider that these events illustrate seriously irresponsible and dishonest behaviour on your part.”
Mr Banerjee, who is at present suspended from his job in Halifax for reasons unconnected to the case, was a junior doctor at King's College Hospital, London, at the time that the offences took place.
He was reported to the GMC by consultant cardiologist Dr Peter Wilmshurst of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, who has campaigned over many years on issues of research fraud.
Dr Wilmshurst said this week: “Although it has taken three years for the GMC to investigate and find Mr Banerjee guilty, the real problem is the six to seven years that it took for the case to get to the GMC, despite the fact that it was well known at King's. The delay was due to the pressure brought to bear on the whistleblowers to keep silent.
The investigation by the GMC was made particularly difficult because the authorities at King's had selectively shredded the laboratory books that had been in existence when Mr Banerjee was carrying out his research, something which was admitted at the hearing.
We need to consider whether the medical school and the University of London behaved properly in this matter. It is clear that senior doctors and administrators were aware of the problems in the early ‘90s but took inadequate action to draw them to the attention of the proper authorities.
London University gave Mr Banerjee a Master of Surgery degree, when there are documents existing which show that they were told that the research in his thesis was fraudulent.”
Mr Banerjee's former supervisor at King's, Professor Timothy Peters, is due to appear before the GMC in the new year.