Have you heard of convicted serial killer Harold Shipman? He was a UK doctor found guilty of killing 15 of his patients. After his conviction, a two-year inquiry spearheaded by the British government revealed that he had in fact killed an upward of 250 patients throughout a 23 year span.
Shipman’s killing spree began to unravel after another doctor raised concerns about the high death rate among his patients and reported her suspicions to the coroner’s office who in turn alerted authorities. An investigation was launched and Shipman was arrested before he could kill even more patients.
Scary and disturbing stuff, I know, but people like Harold Shipman personify and exemplify why health care providers, employers and facility operators have an legal obligation to report professional misconduct–suspected or otherwise, to their governing body.
Think of reporting as a mechanism for protecting patients – in the Shipman case it was about protecting patients’ lives. In a PTs case, it might be protecting patients from a different kind of harm or exploitation.
So what happens after you’ve made a complaint to the College?
The College will review the information provided and determine whether there is enough information to warrant an investigation into the individual’s conduct, competency or health.
We get quite a few reports every year, but only a handful meet our criteria for investigation. But what if you are not the boss? You are just a colleague of someone whose conduct is suspect.
If you have any suspicion of sexual abuse (and yes, that includes when your colleague starts dating a patient!) you have an absolute obligation to report it. In fact, the government signaled its concern about under-reporting by proposing to double the maximum fine on a first offence for an individual who fails to make a mandatory report relating to sexual abuse to $50,000. It is proposed to be quadrupled for corporations to $200,000.
Beyond sexual abuse, a responsible professional will report to the College when he or she suspects that their colleague is incompetent, incapacitated or engaging in professional misconduct. The obligation to report in these instances is an ethical one, rather than a legal one.
Every time you stand aside and watch a colleague break the rules of your profession or put patients at a risk, you jeopardize the integrity of your profession as a whole. And you risk the well-being of the patients with whom that colleague interacts.
Sometimes being a professional requires you to be a whistleblower.
If you are ever wondering whether you ought to report something, call one of our Practice Advisors and talk the situation over. You’ll feel better if you know that you took action.