TUCSON, Ariz., Dec. 23, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Peer review of physicians is intended to protect patients and improve medical care by scrutinizing doctors. A sham or bad faith peer review, however, has no such intention, but is "purposely created to destroy the career of the intended victim, with irreversible damage to professional reputation," according to an article by Dr. Leong Fook Ng et al. in the winter issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Authors are members of the Health Practitioners Australia Reform Association (HPARA).
HPARA was formed in 2015 to achieve reform of the regulation of health professionals in Australia and check the rapid expansion of sham peer reviews there, the article states. Previously, the practice has been extensively described in the U.S., and similar tactics are being used in Australia.
A "notifier," who reports a possible problem to regulatory authorities, may have a sinister motive or a vested interest, and the process gives him a pathway of "absolute power" over the targeted physician. Some reports suggest that only 20% of victims of sham peer review ever return to their usual work, the authors point out.
Targeted physicians have no recourse against falsified reports, conflicted adjudicators, and biased or unqualified "experts." The process is designed to punish, not to discover truth, authors state. The workplace of the victim physician may be shown to have a "bullying culture" that is "severe, systemic, and entrenched," authors maintain.
Instead of a just hearing about an apparently rigged examination, a foreign medical student attending Melbourne University got a threat of a two-year "incarceration term" if he exposed any of the evidence in public, and he was forced to leave Australia immediately with a crushing financial debt, the article states.
Authors conclude that because sham peer review breaches laws including federal competition laws and international human rights conventions, this form of workplace "mobbing" or organized bullying may now be technically considered as a form of white-collar "organized crime." Colleagues who observe sham peer review and do nothing are in effect complicit participants and not merely "innocent bystanders." Unfortunately, medical boards and other authorities are likely to support perpetrators.
Long-term, practical reforms through legislation and education are needed, the article states.
The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.
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SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)