Belgian-trained radiologist gets suspended for racism

A U.K. tribunal has issued a three-month suspension order to a radiologist who qualified in Antwerp for using racist language at work.

In a hearing listed for 10 days until 20 May, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) gave Dr. Herwig Thibaut's area of practice as Darlington, north-east England, and the designated body was North Tees and Hartlepool National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust.

In a conversation on 26 July 2021, Thibaut used the term "Paki doctor." Also, during his annual appraisal on 23 December 2021, he said, "That's what you yellow people are like." After making this comment, Thibaut refused to leave the doctor's office, despite being asked to do so multiple times, and he stepped toward the doctor with his "hands balled into fists," the tribunal found. Thibaut said, "Do you want to fight me?" and "Go on then call security." He twice canceled a phone call the doctor attempted to make to security.

The tribunal found that Thibaut's actions constituted racism – a fact he admitted – and his fitness to practice was impaired because of the misconduct. The tribunal determined not to impose an immediate order of suspension on Thibaut’s registration. This means that his suspension will take effect 28 days from the date on which written notification of this decision is deemed to have been served, unless he lodges an appeal. If he does lodge an appeal, he will remain free to practice unrestricted until the outcome of any appeal is known.

Thibaut, who obtained his medical degree in 1986 at Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen and has been listed on the U.K. specialist register as a clinical radiologist since 23 February 1998, has had a history of disciplinary issues.

According to an article posted by Chronicle Live on 15 May 2011, he was sacked from his job as a consultant radiologist at Darlington Memorial Hospital in April 2011 "after he erupted with rage" when a male consultant challenged his work. Thibaut was reportedly on a final warning after "physical and verbal abuse" and inappropriate behavior toward staff. At a subsequent employment tribunal, Thibaut claimed he was depressed, and he accused his bosses of bullying and failing to investigate his condition, the article stated.

The 7-20 May 2024 tribunal members were Stephen Killen (legally qualified chair), Dr. Suzanne Joels (medical representative), and John Kelly (lay member). This was not a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing; MPTS tribunals make independent decisions about a doctor's fitness to practice, while the GMC investigates doctors and brings a case against them to the MPTS.

In other medicolegal news, radiographer Steven P. Lowe of Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, U.K., has been struck off after a tribunal found his misconduct had been racially motivated, according to a BBC News report posted on 20 May ( ). The allegations dated from 2018 to 2020, and Lowe's case was heard by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), which deemed his fitness to practice was impaired due to his misconduct.

Lowe had sent a photograph via WhatsApp in 2019 showing his work colleagues eating at a buffet with the caption "not an immigrant soup kitchen," stated HCPTS. The radiographer also made derogatory comments about black, Asian, and minority ethnic people that he worked with, and he spoke to colleagues in an intimidating manner when they made mistakes, the tribunal found.

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