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Professional regulation

The question

In the light of the Harold Shipman murder case and other medical malpractice what, if anything, can civil engineering teach doctors about professional regulation?

The issue is one of attitude. For many years civil engineers have had no qualms about other engineers scrutinising their work. We are also subject to scrutiny by outside bodies, such as the Health & Safety Executive on a regular basis, and accept this as part of our professional lives. However, it seems to me that doctors find this a much less acceptable situation. One of Shipman's local colleagues had his suspicions but didn't follow them through. Shipman needn't have been a murderer to have high death rates, he could just have been a poor doctor. Either way, someone drawing attention to it would have been a good thing.

Graeme Monteith, business development manager, rail sector, Glasgow

It is arguable that the medical profession is already more stringently regulated than any of the engineering professions. This may relate to the fact that the effect of medical malpractice is on the whole far quicker to manifest itself than the effect of engineering malpractice which may take years to come to light. The fundamental requirement common to both the engineering and medical professions is the need to continuously check and verify the work done by others and perhaps, more importantly, to question the results and act swiftly where concerns exist. As to what the engineering profession can teach doctors, I think that it is the acceptance that checking and questioning of work as a matter of course is important to maintain standards and identify possible areas of concern before they become serious issues.

Simon Lawrence, consultant, Cardiff

I do not believe our profession can teach the medical profession anything. There are many issues on which we should be looking to medicine for guidance. The General Medical Council in conjunction with a doctor's own Royal College set and maintain the highest medical, ethical, moral and technical standards of any professional body. When we as engineers can conduct our business from the moral high ground that pervades nearly all aspects of medicine, particularly ethicals, only then will we 'humble' engineers have something to teach doctors.

Gary Kent, consultant, Sheffield

I only wish we as engineers had a body such as the British Medical Council to regulate our profession and take appropriate disciplinary action whenever evidence of malpractice was found. Once again we should question whether our profession would be better off having a formal registration system as a means of providing regulation and increasing our status.

Bill Addington

What a ridiculous question. I don't see that civil engineering can teach doctors anything about professional regulation. After an engineer has become chartered, what regulation is there ? None. The one thing the professions have in common is the lack of regulation once an individual has gained professional qualification.

Nic Luker, field engineer, Surrey

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