Abuse scandals: Is the Irish medical profession next?

From the Irish Independent:

Scale of sexual abuse by medical practitioners worse than Catholic Church scandals – claims

THE SCALE of sexual abuse by medical practitioners against patients could be far worse than scandals that rocked the Catholic Church, it was claimed today.

Dignity4Patients, which is supporting more than 250 alleged victims, has demanded a state inquiry into the abuse of patients after allegations were made against male and female consultants, doctors and nurses from all over the country.

Bernadette Sullivan, executive director, warned medics are able to abuse more than other professions, with most privately seeing a new patient every 10 to 15 minutes.

“The scale of numbers a doctor can abuse as compared to a priest are huge,” said the former nurse-turned-whistleblower.

“The worrying thing about the medical profession, and why there has to be an urgent move to do something about this, is the scale of which they can offend I believe is far greater than any other area of our life.”

Dignity4Patients said a dozen different government-ordered investigations into abuse have been completed since the group began calling for an inquiry into the health sector 17 years ago.

[…] Elsewhere almost a fifth of patients believe they have been subjected to an inappropriate action or comment by a health practitioner, an independent survey of 100 patients for Dignity4Patients suggests.

Ms Sullivan said inquiries have proved to be the most effective vehicle for change.

“Without such an inquiry the state is protracting and compounding the suffering of patient victims and putting the safety of all Irish patients at risk,” she added.

The group criticised health chiefs for not examining its files in which victim’s detail the modus operandi of sexual predators, and demanded a code of practice and public information campaign for medics and patients about medical examinations.

Dignity4Patients maintained that Health Minister James Reilly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and President Michael D Higgins are all on record calling for a public inquiry before they were elected last year, and that the coalition’s integrity was up for scrutiny.

“One has to question how genuine those words and actions were when they didn’t have the power,” continued Ms Sullivan.

Enda Kenny recently pointed his finger at Rome and at the Pope because of the failings in the Church.

“I would like to say to Enda Kenny that when he pointed that finger at Rome, there were three fingers pointing back at himself because he has a responsibility to patients.”

Read it all

The SAVI report in 2002 found sex abuse to be fairly widespread throughout society, so this wouldn’t be surprising if true. However the fact that “almost a fifth of patients believe they have been subjected to an inappropriate action or comment by a health practitioner” doesn’t necessarily mean very much. I can certainly think of comments made by my GP that could reasonably be characterised as ‘inappropriate’ (a highly subjective term) but that’s a far cry from sexual assault or rape.


Posted on March 6, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The problem with any of these issues is how to protect the innocent while finding and prosecuting the guilty. As you point out there can be an element of subjectivity as well as malice in an accusation. I am no fan of the medical profession (overpaid and too dependant on the pharmaceutical companies) but, unlike priests, Doctor’s have to have regular physical contact with their patients so there is both the risk of that privilege being abused and the risk of false allegations.

    On the other hand the medical profession have a status and a level of protection in society that few others enjoy. I have heard and encountered some horror stories of incompetence and negligence bordering on the murderous. It’s very difficult to win an action against them and to get them barred from practising. The medical profession needs to be seen to be proactive or they will eventually get burned. If these claims are anyway accurate they cannot sweep this under the carpet for ever.

    So much hurt is caused by abuse that if the Medical Council and the State do not act in time this will do huge damage. We need people we feel we can trust and if all our ‘heroes’ fall what will be left?

  2. Great post Shane, I don’t think it’s an issue that the liberal media will want to highlight any tome soon.

  3. Shane, I have a friend who is studying to be a doctor in Dublin. In his ethics class, this week, he had to write a paper. The professor is asking the students to literally set aside their own moral views. Can you believe this?

    As to the shock to us Americans, you must understand that we still have held the myth that certain countries were Catholic. We hoped against hope this was true. As Ireland goes, so goes Europe, and, as you correctly have said elsewhere, Spain, Portugal, and I know, Malta, have left the sheepfold

    God bless you always.

  4. Supertradmum, I’m sorry to hear that the professor is doing that. He is no doubt trying to desensitize his students for horrors to come, such as abortion. (Unfortunately it’s only a matter of time before it’s legalized.)

  5. Supertradmum,

    Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that there never really were any Catholic countries; there were just countries where the Church had huge influence over the government of the state, which is not the same thing at all. I understand now that such temporal power was more destructive of the Church than it ever was of the state, and the degeneration of the state into moral cess pits simply shows the Church (to me, at least) in an ever brighter light. Here in Europe, we live in a new Roman Empire, just as barbarous and degraded as the original one, except that now, instead of leaving unwanted infants exposed, we kill them in the womb so we don’t have to look at them. I can see now that, before many years have passed, we’ll all have to make a choice between Church and state. For me, that choice is obvious.

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