Doctor raises serious questions about medical awards system

February 2, 2016, British Medical Journal

The system that awards national and academic honors to doctors is called into question by a senior doctor writing in The BMJ this week.

Consultant cardiologist, Peter Wilmshurst, tells the story of Anjan Kumar Banerjee, a surgeon who spent the years 2002 to 2008 erased from the medical register for serious related to , , and substandard care.

Yet in 2014 he was awarded an MBE "for services to ."

The MBE was forfeited two months later, but he remains a fellow of three medical colleges, explains Wilmshurst. The University of London has also ignored repeated requests to withdraw his Master of Surgery (MS) degree during the 15 years since it was confirmed to be based on fraudulent data.

"We need to get rid of the existing 'club culture' in British medicine and replace it with a culture that values integrity and transparency," he argues. And he warns that the inappropriate award of honours and medical qualifications to Banerjee "is not an isolated case."

British medicine has opaque procedures that can be manipulated to gain honours, advancement, and money (for example, clinical excellence awards), he writes. When errors occur, "the establishment would usually rather close ranks and silence whistleblowers than correct the error."

He says he is aware of other cases in which serious misconduct has been concealed and the culprits have received honours and awards, and calls for action to tackle a "systemic problem" in British medicine.

Peter Wilmshurst's story raises serious questions about the integrity of medical and scientific institutions, writes Richard Smith, in an accompanying editorial. Smith is former editor of The BMJ and now London-based Chair of the Board of Trustees for the international research institution icddr,b.

He argues that Britain has never taken the problem of scientific fraud seriously, and that "we have no way of knowing how many cases are successfully covered up."

"We need to move to a world where universities recognise the rightness of investigating allegations of misconduct and commit to punishing those found guilty and to publishing the results of their investigations, correcting the research record, and retracting fraudulent research," he writes.

And he says it's "shameful that the colleges do not retract Banerjee's fellowships, and their failure to do so raises questions about their competence and integrity."

"Something is rotten in the state of British medicine and has been for a long time. Statutory regulation is needed," he concludes.

Explore further: Is it time to lock up those who commit research fraud?

More information: Poor governance in the award of honours and degrees in British medicine: an extreme example of a systemic problem, BMJ,

Editorial: Statutory regulation needed to expose and stop medical fraud, BMJ,

Related Stories

Is it time to lock up those who commit research fraud?

July 15, 2014
On the BMJ today, two doctors debate whether research fraud should be classed as a criminal act.

Ensuring research integrity

May 9, 2011
Canada needs an agency to investigate research misconduct, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.