Am I Missing Something?

The Tallaght hospital’s neglect of service users – 58,000 unread x-rays and a present figure of 3,500 unopened GP referral letters – brought on a tide of Government opposition demands for the resignation of the Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE, Professor Drumm. Opposition party politicians do themselves no good when they use health scandals to target their in-government peers. I would look much more favourably on them were they to target the individual medical consultants who were responsible for such appalling unprofessional conduct. However, no news of these consultants have been forthcoming. My concerns are: are these consultants still practicing and what course of action can be taken by the thousands of people who experienced their neglect? And what about the General Practitioners whose referral letters remained unopened – what comeback do they have?

I find it absolutely puzzling that opposition party politicians demand the heads of Mary Harney and Professor Drumm, but have not sought accountability on the part of the individual consultants. What is interesting is that the Government politicians appear reluctant to name those consultants and demand an explanation and a responsible response from them for their actions. Is there a culture in Ireland that medical professionals are above the law? Certainly, in the case of Dr. Michael Neary, the Obstetrician/ Gynaecologist at our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda,  the Government has made no attempt to bring a legal case against him. Dr. Neary’s behaviour certainly had deep and disturbing unconscious sources, but whatever the neglect he experienced as a child, as an adult he is still accountable for his actions. One wonders whether or not it was insisted that Dr. Neary attend for psycho-analytic/psychotherapeutic help and, if so, did he attend? Such responsible action on his part would provide at least some solace to those women he mutilated. The reasons for his 25 years of the mutilation of women still remains a mystery and these women deserve to know the why of his actions.

The reluctance to pursue medical professionals for neglect of service users has echoes of the conspiracy between State and Church in the cover-ups of the sexual abuse of children. The Catholic clergy were the ‘untouchables’ but at least some of the Bishops have owned up and resigned. I had predicted that the sexual abuse scandals were not peculiar to Ireland and what we have discovered over the last decade is still only the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, what is emerging in Germany and Austria will bring shudders down the spines of those individuals who were abused here in Ireland.

There is no guarantee that any professional training – medical, religious, political, social, psychological, educational, managerial – produces maturity, a truism that has not been acknowledged. Indeed, the contrary would seem to be the case, because there is no requirement for those individuals – with the exception of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts – to examine their lives. Much of the neglect that has led to the present Church, political, financial and health scandals would not have happened if we had mature individuals manning these professions. There is a clear need to examine the nature of the training undergone by key professionals in our society and to determine its effectiveness in resolving the undoubted present unresolved emotional baggage that we all bring to our adulthood. There has been a cleverly designed assumption that education brings maturity but the facts do not support this claim. For instance, what happened and what is still happening in the banks gives little grounds for hope of mature change; the Church too is hugely struggling with accountability and, sadly, medical professionals appear very reluctant to appear as a witness in the case of professional neglect by a colleague. Turning a blind eye proved to be very evident in the case of Dr. Neary whose colleagues over twenty years did not challenge his bizarre conduct. One worries what kind of denial has been going on in the Tallaght hospital and will it emerge that yet another cover-up was going on?

If politicians want to demonstrate eligibility to govern, let them first take the sty out of their eyes and practice mature responses to uncovered neglects – wherever they occur. Making political mileage out of such tragedies is a recipe for further disasters and does not auger well were any of the opposition parties to become a government party.

Dr. Tony Humphreys practices as a clinical psychologist. He is the author of several books on practical psychology including The Mature Manager. For details of courses and lectures see: