Ruling

Resolution Statement – 11106-21 Duggan v The Comet

    • Date complaint received

      12th May 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 11106-21 Duggan v The Comet

Summary of Complaint

1. Mike Duggan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Comet breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “A GP has been given a formal warning after self-prescribing medication, administering vaccines to himself and requesting his own medical tests.”, published on 9th September 2021.

2. The article reported on the outcome of a medical practitioners’ tribunal, stating that a GP, the complainant, had been given a “formal warning after self-prescribing medication, administering vaccines to himself and requesting his own medical tests”. It stated that the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service had “concluded that Dr Duggan ‘breached the required standards’, but found his fitness to practise unimpaired”.

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “GP given formal warning over inappropriate behaviour”. A readers comment posted underneath the online article read: “…My father had presented to him on multiple occasions for back pain of increasing severity, along with a multitude of other symptoms that should have been red flags… I accompanied my father to his next consultation with a film copy of this x-ray. Dr. Duggan told me that he could not read the x-ray and asked me to point out the lesion. He then asked me which cancers metastasise to the spine, in order to select which department to refer father to. I am a veterinary surgeon. The delay in diagnosis was 6 months (being completely dismissed during that time). He had initially presented with flank pain radiating to the groin (typical for kidney origin) and was later diagnosed with metastatic clear cell renal carcinoma (kidney cancer with spread to the spine, liver and lungs). The only other time I saw Dr. Duggan was to collect my father’s death certificate.”

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). He said that the reader comment inaccurately alleged that he was unable to read an x-ray; did not know where specific cancers spread; and would not be able to spot metastases on an x-ray. Prior to contacting IPSO, the complainant had complained directly to the publication regarding the reader comment but received no response.

5. The complainant further said that both versions of the article were inaccurate. Neither mentioned the fact that he had been cleared of acting dishonestly, nor that the tribunal had dismissed the GMC counsel’s argument that his fitness to practice had been impaired by reason of misconduct. The complainant also said that both the print and online articles failed to state that the allegation of self-administering vaccines was dismissed. The complainant also added that a previous article published by the same newspaper had reported on the allegation of dishonesty. He considered that the newspaper should have subsequently reported he had been cleared of this allegation.

6. The publication accepted that it had failed to contact the complainant upon receipt of his direct complaint, and which it apologised for. It removed the comment in question upon receipt of the complaint from IPSO. The publication said that it is not always possible to include all information from tribunal hearings and offered to remove the earlier article which contained the allegation of acting dishonestly. It also offered to consider a letter written by the complainant for publication in one of its columns.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated Outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication amended the online article to remove any reference to vaccines and vaccinations and offered to publish the following clarification online:

“A previous version of this article said Dr Duggan's formal warning had included the fact he had self-administered vaccinations. However, that allegation was withdrawn after the tribunal accepted there was not enough evidence to suggest that was the case. We are sorry for the error and any confusion the mistake may have caused. We are also happy to confirm that an allegation of dishonesty was found not proven by the tribunal.”

In addition, it offered to publish the following clarification in print:

“In the September 9, 2021, edition of The Comet we published an article about a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service misconduct hearing involving Dr Michael Duggan who had been working at Stevenage's Manor House Surgery. In the article we said Dr Duggan's formal warning had included the fact he had self-administered vaccinations. However, that allegation was withdrawn after the tribunal accepted there was not enough evidence to suggest that was the case. We are sorry for the error and any confusion the mistake may have caused. We are also happy to confirm that an allegation of dishonesty was found not proven by the tribunal.”

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.


Date complaint received: 30/10/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 30/03/2022