An online blacklist for banned doctors

Patients will be able to verify if their surgeon has been suspended or banned.
By Frits Baltesen and Karin de Mik

The Dutch health ministry plans to launch an online blacklist of doctors and nurses who are banned from practising medicine. Officially, there is no connection with the recent deaths of six patients in a hospital in Emmen.

The website will have a list of general practitioners, specialists and nurses who have been suspended or banned from practising medicine. It is expected to contain 100 to 200 names when it goes online before the end of the year. "You could call this a blacklist," a spokesperson for health minister Ab Klink said.

According to Jurian Luiten, a legal expert with the health ministry, nine doctors were suspended in the Netherlands last year and eight were banned from ever practising medicine again.

The online blacklist comes on the heels of an investigation into a series of suspicious deaths at the Scheper hospital in Emmen. Six patients died there after stomach stapling operations performed by the same doctor. In at least four cases there is a "strong suspicion" that the deaths were related to the hospital treatment, the president of the board of Scheper hospital, Maarten Rutgers, said on Wednesday.

The surgeon in question was sentenced to a fine in Germany in 2005 after one of his patients there died after a similar operation. Rutgers said he was unaware of the surgeon's past because he was not at Scheper hospital yet when the doctor transferred there.

But Rutgers said he wouldn't have removed him even if he had known about the fine. "We're talking about someone with 25 years experience who has performed thousands of operations. If the fine was related to a single incident, he could have continued working here," Rutgers said.

The hospital has launched its own investigation into the deaths. At least one relative plans to press charges against the surgeon: Eric ten Caat's father died this year at age 55 after a stomach stapling operation. The hospital has suspended the doctor pending the investigation.

Even if the health ministry's blacklist had existed at the time, the Emmen doctor's name wouldn't have appeared on it. Only doctors or nurses who have been officially suspended or banned in the Netherlands will be included, not those who have been fined or reprimanded. The ministry is still working on closing a legal loophole that is keeping it from putting doctors or nurses who have been convicted abroad on the list.

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