Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (120)

Bernard Allen

Question:

121 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he proposes to introduce provisions in the new Medical Practitioners Act to resolve the issue of using transcripts at professional conduct hearings from other jurisdictions in fitness to practise hearings here. [8136/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council was established as a body with the statutory responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities in Ireland.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Supreme Court recently confirmed an earlier decision of the High Court in respect of a case where a doctor had been struck off in another jurisdiction. The Medical Council, due to the unavailability of the original witnesses, had proposed to use the transcript of the proceedings from the foreign jurisdiction in a fitness to practise inquiry to be undertaken by the Medical Council. The Supreme Court ruled that the use of the transcript, with no opportunity for the defendant to cross examine his accusers, would deprive the doctor concerned of his right to fair procedures.

The particular doctor had been registered with the Medical Council before any accusations were made in the other jurisdiction. The Supreme Court ruled that, as the witnesses who gave evidence in the foreign jurisdiction were not prepared to attend hearings in Ireland, the council, not being in a position to proceed with an inquiry into the matter, had no cause or right to remove the doctor's name from the general register of medical practitioners.

A major review of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978 is taking place in my Department. Draft heads of a Bill for significant amendments to the Act have been prepared and will shortly be brought to Cabinet for approval. The implications of the Supreme Court ruling on the use of transcripts in particular circumstances are being fully considered in that context.