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Surgeon who was suspended for performing wrong knee surgery can practise again

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3002 (Published 28 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3002

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Re: Surgeon who was suspended for performing wrong knee surgery can practise again

Dear Editor
I am pleased Mr Norrish has experienced a successful outcome and the panel saw fit to allow others to benefit from this man’s great skill and use to society.
It is somewhat chilling that the GMC’s Legal Counsel (undoubtedly acting under instructions) suggested that the punitive measures should continue and that Norrish should not return to practising his talents by virtue of the sanctions previously imposed (i.e. the 12-month suspension) impairing his abilities.
Attempting to leverage the sentence already served by an individual against them surely plumbs new depths that even a rodent with a passion for deep sea-diving might shudder from.
However, this point highlights an issue where a Court of Law has a more proportionate position. The principle being that the minimum sentence should be imposed. Society places so much importance on safeguards surrounding “Cruel and unusual punishment” they are enshrined in most legal systems, from Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000) to the English Bill of Rights (1689).
Many may be familiar with its use in relation to torture and humiliating punishments but the same principle covers "excessive fines or deprivations"
I am a little confused how the interests of the General public are served if an offending surgeon is suspended for 12 months causing obvious financial hardship and destruction for his family and at the end of his sentence; he is informed the process has compromised his ability to obtain gainful employment, perpetuating the punitive sanction.
Such a process is less about rehabilitation and more about vengeance. The arguments engaged here are the same ones invoked against judicial amputation, a subject the BMJ has always maintained a robust line against.
Thankfully on this occasion ‘right’ has prevailed but had this been a colleague who was less well connected and English was not their first language, I am not confident the outcome would have been the same.

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 August 2020
Michael Bowen
Cons Gynae
3 St Andrews Road