Section 12(a) of the Medical Council Act 1999 (as amended) stipulates that the Medical Council, among its many functions, shall “ exercise and maintain discipline in the practice of medicine”.
Accordingly, the Medical Council has the responsibility to investigate any complaint of medical negligence, professional misconduct, malpractice or any breach of the Code of Practice against a registered person.
During the preliminary investigation, the Investigating Committee of Council may summon and hear the registered person and witnesses. It may call for relevant documents including from clinics and hospitals.
Additionally, the person whose conduct, act or omission is under investigation is notified about the nature of the complaint.
In case a person refuses to give evidence or to communicate any document on the ground of confidentiality, the Registrar may apply to a Judge sitting in Chambers for an order directing that person to disclose the evidence required or communicate any document needed for the purposes of the investigation.
After the preliminary investigation, the Investigating Committee makes a report on the case to the Medical Council. A decision is then taken as to whether the case has to be set aside or whether the concerned registered person has committed a fault and has to be sanctioned. The Medical Council can inflict a warning or a severe warning to the registered person.
In case Council considers the case more serious, it may institute disciplinary proceedings against the registered person before the Medical Disciplinary Tribunal.
If Council considers that public interest requires the registered medical practitioner to instantly cease to practise medicine, it can suspend the registered person instantly.
The Tribunal, after having enquired into the case, submits a report and a copy of its proceedings to Council stating whether the charge levelled against the registered person has been proved or not. In cases where the charges have been proved, Council may inflict the following sanctions:-
• administer a warning or a severe warning,
• administer a reprimand or a severe reprimand,
• suspend the medical practitioner from medical practice for a period not exceeding 12 months, or
• remove the name of the registered person from the register.
The lacunae in the Medical Council Act which does not empower the Medical Council to directly sanction medical practitioners who are public officers has been addressed in the recent amendments to the act.