Two doctors found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council are seeking election to its governing committee, which sits in judgement on all doctors.
Jennifer Colman, who was struck off the medical register 13 years ago, and John Studd, a consultant gynaecologist admonished by the GMC two and a half years ago, are standing in an election for a seat on the disciplinary body, brought about by a death among the 104-member council.
The disclosure is an embarrassment to the GMC and a blow to the principle of self-regulation, which has recently come under heavy criticism. Ministers have made plain that they are losing patience with the GMC and, unless it quickly builds confidence in its ability to protect patients rather than doctors, the Government could replace it.
Ballot papers for the by-election do not mention the verdicts on either doctor. Fifty candidates are standing and the result will be known next month. A GMC spokeswoman said that the electoral process was under review but that the council could not stop anyone standing and could only reveal details of past disciplinary cases if a member asked.
Dr Colman, formerly known as Colman-Archer, was struck off in 1987 for neglect of patients and racial abuse of colleagues. She was alleged to have told a female patient with severe chest pain that she would not examine her until she stopped breathing noisily and to have refused to see a patient who had had a heart attack. She was also said to have been sexually and racially abusive to staff. She was restored to the register in 1989 after the GMC's professional conduct committee accepted that her outbursts were linked with two head injuries. Dr Colman could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
John Studd, an expert on hormone replacement therapy at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, London, was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 1997 after admitting that he had removed a woman's ovaries without her consent during a hysterectomy. He was admonished but not struck off and changed his procedure when it came to obtaining consent.
Yesterday, Mr Studd said he remained angry at the "unjust political verdict" against him which "flew in the face of the scientific and medical evidence". Referring to the Bristol heart surgery disaster, he said the GMC had destroyed "three good, hard-working doctors" who had been made scapegoats for a "rotten, under-funded health service". He was standing for the election to "defend the rights of doctors against the self-promoting, self-preserving and compliant behaviour of the GMC".
The GMC acknowledged yesterday that there were concerns over the election procedures, especially the candidacy of doctors found guilty of serious misconduct, and said the review would examine this issue. The Patients Association said that such doctors should be barred from standing, or at least have their histories made known to the doctors voting.