Diennet v. France

Case number 25/1994/4/472/553
Download Judgment: English

The Regional Council of Medical Association struck the applicant off the register of practitioners on account of professional misconduct such as not examining the patients personally and not monitoring or adjusting the treatment. On appeal, the National Council modified the Regional Council’s order of striking off to disqualifying him from practicing medicine for three years. The Counseil d’Etat remitted the case back as there was some irregularity in the proceedings in the National Council. The National Council thereafter conducted a private hearing and again ruled that the applicant should be disqualified for three years. The Counseil d’Etat dismissed the appeal of the applicant. The applicant alleged before the Commission that his right to a public hearing and by an impartial tribunal had been infringed.

The Court unanimously held that there had been a violation of the right to a public hearing. The majority opinion held that there had been no violation of the right to an impartial tribunal. The court said that there was no requirement of holding a private hearing, as there was no information related to patient confidentiality involved in the present case. There was no evidence that there would occur a breach of professional confidentiality.

The Court stated that there was no ground or evidence pointing towards the partiality of the members of the National Commission.

“…Lastly, while the need to protect professional confidentiality and the private lives of patients may justify holding proceedings in camera, such an occurrence must be strictly required by the circumstances. In the instant case, however, as the applicant and the Commission rightly pointed out, the proceedings were to deal only with the "method of consultation by correspondence" adopted by Dr Diennet (see paragraph 8 above). There was no good reason to suppose that either the tangible results of that method in respect of a given patient or any confidences that Dr Diennet might have picked up in the course of practising his profession would be mentioned. If it had become apparent during the hearing that there was a risk of a breach of professional confidentiality or an intrusion on private life, the tribunal could have ordered that the hearing should continue in camera.” (Para 34)

In the Court's view, no ground for legitimate suspicion can be discerned in the fact that three of the seven members of the disciplinary section had taken part in the first decision (see the Ringeisen judgment previously cited, loc. cit., and paragraph 12 above). Furthermore, even if the second decision had been differently worded, it would necessarily have had the same basis, because there were no new factors. The applicant's fears therefore cannot be regarded as having been objectively justified.” (Para 38)