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Towards compassion: statutory powers to regulate impaired doctors in Victoria, 1844-2016.
journal contributionposted on 2016-11-22, 00:00 authored by Gabrielle WolfGabrielle Wolf
This article examines the significant changes that parliamentarians have made to the powers of regulators of the Victorian medical profession (regulators) from 1844 to the present day to manage doctors whose ill health has impaired their capacity to practise medicine (impaired doctors). It explores the influences on legislators that altered their conceptions of the best ways of achieving the chief objective that they all shared: to protect the public. The article argues that there was a dramatic progression over this period from parliamentarians confining regulators to responding in a draconian, narrow way to impaired doctors, to empowering them increasingly to adopt a flexible, personalised and empathic regulatory approach. This management style has the potential to support impaired doctors to practise medicine safely, which is beneficial for the practitioners and their patients. Nevertheless, despite legislators’ intentions, in certain circumstances impaired doctors today may still experience regulation that appears punitive and unsupportive. The article therefore recommends that future legislators change regulators’ powers further to encourage them to manage these doctors in particular with greater compassion and thereby improve their chances of practising medicine safely in the future.