Guest Post – Richard McGrath

Richard McGrath contacted me about a wee issue he has had with Todd McDonald aka The Jackal. I’ll let Richard explain:


I returned from a week in Queenstown on Monday. What a place! The weather was beautiful, the company pleasant, and I felt rested and refreshed. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk at the medical centre where I work, trolling through the week’s worth of e-mails when I came across one, forwarded from our clinical director, with the single word ‘Complaint’ in the subject line. Normally, my heart sinks a bit when I receive this sort of thing. But rather than angst, this one caused amusement. A tosser had e-mailed our practice to complain that because I had criticised other people – at times even resorting to personal attacks – in my press releases, exchanges on various blogs and the nz.general discussion group, and campaign speeches on behalf of the Libertarianz Party, I was unfit to practice medicine.

My reply follows. Names have been suppressed so that I don’t further upset this wanker.

Dear Sir

[Our practice manager] has forwarded me a copy of your e-mails alleging that because I have made “personal attacks” (in print I presume) against “numerus (sic) individuals” who  do not share my political views, then I am unfit to practice medicine.

[She] made reference in her reply to you that formal complaints about the medical performance of staff are appropriately dealt with by the management of [our medical centre].

Complaints about a staff member’s political views are, as she stated, are not the business of [the medical centre] unless those views affect that staff member’s performance, or a medical confidence is breached, a patient’s political views are derided during a consultation, etc.

Outside of my work at [the medical centre], I believe I enjoy the same rights as other New Zealanders – including the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Bill of Rights Act 1990, section 14 of which reads:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

I believe that personal attacks in print, including ad hominem attacks where a person’s character is belittled rather than his ideas, are covered by this freedom of expression. I believe I am entitled to make such attacks on anyone whose ideas diverge from my own, with the proviso that if defame people or cause them objective harm I am then liable to a civil action through the law courts.

I believe the free market is the greatest judge of my worthiness or otherwise as a doctor. If I harm patients, or launch personal attacks on them, they are at liberty to change their doctor or even move to another medical centre. At last count, today, 1704 patients at Masterton Medical were happy to be enrolled under my care as their GP, which I think reflects a reasonable degree of confidence in my role as a medical practitioner. I welcome patients whose political beliefs differ from my own; in fact I do not discuss politics in the course of my work unless a patient brings up the subject. When this happens I try to remain courteous and avoid confrontation which would, in all likelihood, make the patient uncomfortable.

My own personal view – and I hasten to add that not all my medical colleagues share this view, but many do – is that much of the Health & Disability Commissioner’s Code of Consumers’ Rights is little more than a summary of good business practice and common sense (for instance, treating customers with respect and avoiding doing them harm). I view this Code of Rights as an imposition on health professionals by politicians who believe they ‘own’ doctors, nurses and others working in the health industry, rather than the Code arising spontaneously from the health professions themselves, and so I struggle to give it any legitimacy and meaning in my day-to-day practice, much of it being – as I have already said – common sense.

You seem perturbed that I discriminate against people at times. On that count, I am guilty as charged. In my political views I discriminate (which literally means differentiate) between people who act according to moral standards compatible with an acknowledgement of individual rights and respect for the freedom of others to peacefully improve their lives and the lives of others, and those (including politicians) who trample all over the freedom of other New Zealanders. I distinguish between the two groups and launch attacks on the views (and, occasionally, the personal attributes) of the latter.

It would be naïve to believe that patients do not encounter ‘discrimination’ in medical practice. Elderly people are likely to suffer from a quite different spectrum of disease and infirmity than infants. Females of child bearing age are likely to have a number of causes for a low abdominal pain quite different to the likely causes in a male. With every patient, doctors and nurses have to take account of age, sex, ethnicity, and current disabilities in order to efficiently reach a diagnosis.

I encourage you to lodge a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Office if you believe that my comments on political blogs and internet discussion groups – as well as my public utterances during election campaigns – make me unfit to practice medicine. However I think you will find their interest lies in pursuing complaints where harm was done to a patient in the course of medical treatment in which I was directly involved.

In the meantime, outside of my work at [the medical practice] as a GP (and elsewhere as a medical officer at two drug and alcohol clinics), I will continue to highlight injustice where I see it, keeping in mind at all times Edmund Burke’s observation: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

If that offends you, I am sorry, but for now I intend to alter neither my political stance nor my modus operandi.

Best wishes

Actually that was being pretty kind to the HDC and to the government stooges on the Medical Council, who enforce a Code of Health Consumer Rights that is, frankly, largely bullshit.

Common sense and business practice doesn’t need to be codified in the way the Office of the HDC has done. As I stated to this halfwit, a doctor that insults his patients is going to lose customers and therefore income. His own medical practice will sort him out before the HDC ever hears about it.

This complaining git, who I will call The Jackass, is apparently a plumber – yet his name doesn’t appear on the register of Master Plumbers, which apparently represents 60% of plumbers and offers quality assurance and a guarantee on work done. That’s not to say The Jackass isn’t a perfectly competent plumber, but it does make you wonder.

In any case, he wants anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his worldview to be denied their basic freedom of speech and expression. And so he is, to use his preferred term of endearment, an asshole of the first order.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.