WA News Guest Opinion / Editorial Trust is at the Heart
Trust is at the Heart
Written by Dr Rob McEvoy
Tuesday, 29 August 2017

As professionals we expect the best of people but become actively disappointed when they don’t do the right thing. We believe that almost anyone can reform. The harsh reality may be otherwise. Many say non-reformers need to be banished from society if they commit crimes that don’t rest easy with the majority. But first, perhaps they need to be confronted when they do wrong and have a chance to reform. The alternative may be for accomplices to hide them away and perhaps allow their crimes to be repeated.

Why do we say doctors shouldn’t be mandatorily reported for serious misdemeanours? We offer abused children the protection of mandatory reporting.

We argue it might stop doctors seeking help so instead of a ‘blame and shame’ approach, we counsel wrongdoers. I can see the logic in this but it depends on what sort of people we have in charge and the seriousness of the misdemeanours. Those in charge need to be transparent and accountable otherwise they may be viewed as little more than accomplices.

People in positions of trust have attracted non-reformers at best and criminals at worst. It is time to recognise that the church brand is morally bankrupt and perhaps do something about it. Doctors can topple into the same quagmire pretty easily unless we extrapolate the lessons learnt.

In consumers’ eyes, doctors have feet of clay and if churches can get it very wrong, then other caring professions can also breach trust. That’s the sad reality. In fact, on reflection, it’s the breach of trust that cheeses everyone off, particularly among those protectors of vulnerable souls who need it most.

Unless the profession puts a robust, transparent protective system in place, patients and trainee doctors are more easily exploited by abuse of trust and power. Sexual harassment may be influenced by cultural differences but it is for the majority to decide if criminals hide as doctors.

We may say the culture of medicine has encouraged misbehaviour. The silent non-offending majority may disagree even when offenders may have been upright champions of some folk. It’s not simple by any means, which is why we need people without fear or favour running things, not those who can be perceived as accomplices.

Medicines Australia is coming clean and can do more, medical equipment manufacturers should come under a similar Code of Practice, and whistle-blowers in the public sector need better protection. A philosophical shift within the profession, which is inherently conservative, is overdue and is coming.

As a caring profession, it is our care of people that must shine supreme, more than the mighty dollar.

By Dr Rob McEvoy