GDC issues case study on social media posting

GDC issues case study on social media posting

The case concerned a complaint about a Facebook post made by a dental professional. In this post, he had made derogatory comments about a particular group in the community, and celebrated violence against members of that group. The FtP committee issued a reprimand. For the full case study go to:

https://www.gdc-uk.org/professionals/standards/st-case-studies

The dental professional attended the Practice Committee hearing and admitted the charges made against him. The Committee therefore found the facts proved.  The Committee concluded that the comments were offensive and that rational members of the public would find them offensive - the Facebook post described and celebrated acts of violence against a large section of the community.

The Committee determined that the dental professional’s conduct was capable of undermining public trust and confidence in dental services because of the offensive and unprofessional nature of the comments made. Accordingly, the Committee determined that this amounted to misconduct.

The Committee noted that the case did not involve matters of clinical practice and patient care and that there was no suggestion that the registrant was anything other than a capable, caring and well regarded dental professional. However, the Committee considered that the offensive and unprofessional comments made on social media were highly damaging to his fitness to practise and that a finding of impairment would be appropriate. Such a finding would maintain public confidence in the profession, in dental services and in regulation. The Committee decided that the registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.

The GDC commented on the case: “The GDC’s role is to protect the public and patients and to ensure there is public confidence in dental services. In this case the dental professional, who is in a position of trust, often with vulnerable patients, expressed views that called into question his ability to justify that trust with patients from a specific community. Having celebrated violence against people from that community, there were real questions about whether patients would be safe in the care of the registrant concerned.

“In addition, by giving people from particular communities reason to believe that they may not be treated with respect, this could prevent those very people from accessing dental services. Public confidence is important because it is one key factor (together with issues such as access and cost) in the take-up of the dental services which society invests in providing.

“The GDC is not here to judge people’s morals, nor do we have a role in safeguarding the reputation of the profession for its own sake. While this particular case went to the Practice Committee, we want to use fitness to practise proceedings in cases where there is a genuine risk to patient safety and/or public confidence.”

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