Bill Madden via his Medical + health law blog is reporting on the decision of the Tasmania Health Practitioners Tribunal to suspend the registration of a medical practitioner for comments he made online. The post (https://billmaddens.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/inappropriate-online-comments-professional-misconduct/) says:
Writing for Australian Doctor newspaper, Antony Scholefield has drawn attention to a conduct decision of the Health Practitioners Tribunal (Tasmania): Medical Board of Australia v Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee  TASHPT 3.
At , the Tribunal noted that the relevant conduct consisted of making numerous inappropriate and offensive statements or comments online in public forums in which the respondent was readily identifiable from his own words and photographs as an Australian medical practitioner.
The respondent admitted that he wrote the posts (at ) but said (at ) that at the time he posted his online comments he was relatively young and inexperienced and he had a brash and opinionated bent to his conduct on social media. He did not fully appreciate that posting comments on a Singaporean online forum would have consequences on his practise of medicine in Australia.
A joint submission stressed that despite the respondent’s above mentioned online conduct he has not permitted his socio-political and other personal views to colour or influence his medical practise and he has certainly never been discriminatory or derogatory towards the groups of individuals that his comments are alleged to be inflammatory of.
The respondent did not dispute that the conduct constituted professional misconduct (at ).
At  the Tribunal stated:
The parties submitted, and I agree, the online posts convey socially unacceptable and extreme sentiments which are disrespectful of women and comment upon violence towards or sexual abuse of women. Some of the online posts might reasonably be interpreted as being racially discriminatory and contrary to acceptable social norms in Australia. All of the online posts had the potential to incite radical views, antagonise the reader and they had the potential to cause harm to the public. In addition some of the posts involved the use of vulgar language, expressions of committing violence and crime all of which are inconsistent with the good repute of medical practitioners and the relationship of trust between medical practitioners and patients who are, of course, members of the public.
The respondent was reprimanded and suspended for a period of 6 weeks.
I won’t repeat the doctor’s comments here but they are set out in the judgement if you want to read them. They were truly offensive and hardly befitting a member of the medical profession.
Readers of this blog will be interested as no doubt a tribunal would take a similar view of similar comments by a paramedic. Your professional life is not limited to the time you are at work. Social media is full of opportunities for people to tarnish their own professional standing as Lee discovered.
For further discussion on the use of social media see
- Views expressed are my own’ – a useful disclaimer on social media? (February 15, 2016).
- Speaking out on social media (May 9, 2016);
- New CFA social media policy (July 10, 2018); and
- Posting on social media by police – and others (February 2, 2019).
Most importantly see the Paramedicine Board social Media Policy (Interim) (June 2018). Paramedics need to be familiar with that policy before venting, or encouraging others to commit crimes of violence, on social media.
Michael, could it be assumed that should one have posted negative (unacceptable) comments on social media prior to registration application of a paramedic, that this could lead to that individual not being eligible for registration in the first instance?
If those comments indicated that the applicant was not a ‘fit and proper’ person for registration then yes, earlier pre-registration online activity could see a person refused registration.