Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does the Penalty fit the Crime? Raj Persaud and the consequences of the GMC

Doctors can be a jealous, bitter and twisted lot. There is no forgiveness in the profession. It appears that Raj Persaud crime was to be publically successful as a psychiatrist. He was a bit like the nice friendly dentist on the Colgate advertisements. Yes it is true he put his name to material that was not his, but generally Raj's books are well referenced, I know, I borrow the references. He was reported to the GMC for plagiarism, he was found guilty, he apologised and was suspended for three months. He has now resigned his job as a consultant psychiatrist. I am sure Dr Raj Persaud will not starve, nonetheless, the support he has recieved from his profession and colleagues is like the dog that did not bark in the night.

Is copyright really an issue for the GMC? Were any patients harmed in the publication of those articles? Was this for the GMC or his publishers to decide? It would also have been understandable had his academic body had an inquiry, or the publishers had words, apologised and paid appropriate compensation to the offended authors. Neither has happened. Instead the GMC has harassed one more doctor, the consequences of which have been out of all proportion to the offence.

The publically acceptable face of psychiatry has been disfigured. Who will replace him? I have yet to meet a psychiatrist who is both charismatic and enlightened. The nice ones are more Louis Walsh than John Travolta and the charismatic ones are more Hannibal Lecter than John Seargeant . Will people trust psychiatry and psychiatrists more, or less, now that the one psychiatrist who can express himself coherently has been discredited?

I have met Raj Persaud twice. The first time was as an inpatient in the Maudsley Hospital. He was the first and only doctor to treat me like a human being, to look me in the eye and answer my questions. He created enough of an impression that ten years later when he became famous , I instantly recognised him. As for all the other doctors who have "treated" me, with barely one exception, I don't even know their names. Whatever their professional jealousies, the Maudsley could have done better than force him to resign

Only Lord Owen has spoken out in support. The Medical Bloggers have been silent, The literary world admits, in hushed tones only, that perhaps the GMC reaction was a little extreme. His colleagues at the Maudsley chose to throw him to the wolves. Nonetheless, Raj, thanks for you talk yesterday at the Bipolar Organisation and thank you for honouring your commitment at such a difficult time.

Yet again, for evil to succeed it is enough to for good men to do nothing. If the penalty does not fit the crime, justice falls into disrepute. Public disgrace was not enough, Raj Persaud's colleagues also wanted his head on a plate.

Copyright (c) Dr. Liz Miller
Late apologies to Ward 87 - glad I am not the only doctor who has noticed this iniquity. To Bowlderise Voltaire "We may not approve of you completely, but we defend to the death your right to be you "


peter a. said...

To tell the truth I did think the Raj business strange. As you say, it's not as if he was a newspaper editor or something. And as you imply, in his primary function of putting people at their ease, face to face, he was first class.

Anonymous said...

This was a man who professionally passed off another's work as his own, and then lied about it, blaming others to save his skin.

I have no sympathy for him. Charismatic, yes, but trustworthy -- definitely not.

Dr. Liz Miller said...

And that makes it ok to destroy his life? Were any animals harmed in the writing of the words? Do any other similar cases come to mind?

I am concerned about keeping this in proportion. Is this a literary scandal, or a hanging offence?

peter a. said...

It won't be the first time that a person called a scoundrel has done good works. That's not to praise falsehood or evil deeds, but just to recognise that there's more to life than an unblemished record.

Anonymous said...

The problem lies in the fact that there is no adequate definition of SPM. This issue regarding Persaud does not actually come within whatever definition exists. It is his medical journalism issues afterall and not "scientific" research per se.

The correct mode of action should have been suing him for copyright violation. The GMC has stated that they cannot try defamation and they cannot try copyright violation either. GMP though is tweeked to fit this case.

In any case, the main responsibility for publication lies with the editor and NOT Persaud. I suspect his defence union failed to argue that issue.

Anyway, what do I know! :)

Many doctors worse than Persaud are allowed off GMC Towers. Mr Andrew Hall - who was severely criticised by the Ombudsman for the death of Beryl Walters is just one.

Persaud's case was a Scientology attack. Of course, no one believes this issue - its pretty true if anyone bothers to read his transcripts.

Rita Pal

Dr. Liz Miller said...

I agree - "crimes" need to be dealt with appropriately in a civilised society.

As you say, these days, GMP covers everything. Doctors need to understand that. "Thought the life of a priest was too easy, undisciplined and just for Sundays? Try medicine. Complete obedience 24/7 and no mitigation!"

Over strict regulation stifles free thinking. In other words over regulation kills progress. This is one of the lessons of history.

It happened in the Soviet Union, the Eastern Block and to the Chinese Empire. History needs to go back on the curriculum!

Over strict regulation also means a system can be infiltrated and manipulated by different interest groups.

Diversity is key to healthy development!