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“Fake doctor” is charged with manslaughter after four patient deaths in Germany

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6379 (Published 05 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6379

Rapid Response:

Re: “Fake doctor” is charged with manslaughter after four patient deaths in Germany

First of all, I feel sorry for the German patients who lost their lives in the hands of a fake doctor and wish to express my deepest sympathy and deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in a tragic and unexpected way.

Who to blame? Just the “fake doctor or a failing system”? When "Revalidation" for doctors was first implemented by the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK in 2012 (1), most of us including me winced about it--how this process would be useless and was going to be another ticking box exercise, etc. I witnessed quite a few early retirements triggered by the revalidation process and also underlying ongoing pension issues. As a past Trust appraiser, I feel that the GMC's decision on this issue was not too bad, and appropriate and balanced - of course it could have been better, but still able to catch some Shipmans and fake doctors through our “Appraisal and Revalidation” process. Appraiser has the prime role to observe and catch anything out of the main stream and has the ability to detect unusual issues of the appraisee.

It is a shame that the German culprit managed to disguise herself for a long time. I firmly believe that she could have been caught red handed by whistleblowers or at least during the appraisal process, if she was employed in the UK. In fact, it is indeed everybody’s responsibility to highlight bad healthcare performances at every level from helpers and nurses to doctors.

I am hoping very much that this unexpected incident in Germany will be a wakeup call for the German healthcare authorities and that they will implement a kind of appraisal and revalidation system in place like here in the UK.

References:
1. GMC. Taking revalidation forward. Sir Keith Pearson’s review of medical revalidation 2017. https://www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/Taking_revalidation_forward___I... (accessed 06.11.2019)

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 November 2019
Emre Pakdemirli
Consultant Radiologist
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, St Albans City hospital
St Albans City Hospital, UK