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

How do babies laugh? Like chimps!

November 7, 2018
Few things can delight an adult more easily than the uninhibited, effervescent laughter of a baby. Yet baby laughter, a new study shows, differs from adult laughter in a key way: Babies laugh as they both exhale and inhale, ...

Tongue-in-cheek Nobels honor nutritional analysis of cannibalism, roller-coaster kidney stones treatment

September 14, 2018
A nutritional analysis of cannibalism and treating kidney stones on roller-coasters were research projects honored by tongue-in-cheek awards at Harvard University Thursday, designed to make you laugh first, and think later.

Pediatric robot patient offers new level of realism for doctors in training

September 10, 2018
A team of researchers and engineers at Gaumard Scientific has unveiled a new robot that raises the bar on medical training devices. The robot, called HAL, has been made to look like a five-year-old male patient and offers ...

Why men say they've had more lifetime sexual partners than women

July 25, 2018
The disparity between the number of sexual partners reported by men and women can largely be explained by a tendency among men to report extreme numbers of partners, and to estimate rather than count their lifetime total, ...

Censors jump into action as China's latest vaccine scandal ignites

July 22, 2018
Chinese censors on Sunday deleted articles and postings about the vaccine industry as an online outcry over the country's latest vaccine scandal intensified.

Revenge of a forgotten medical 'genius'

June 30, 2018
It's not an uncommon fate for a pioneering scientist: languishing unrecognised in his time before dying in obscurity. But as his 200th birthday approaches, the life-saving work of a Hungarian obstetrician is finally getting ...


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.