Page:Introductory Address on the General Medical Council, its Powers and its Work.djvu/17
ITS POWERS AND ITS WORK
proceeded on this inquiry, as on all other inquiries, shows that the Council ate fully aware that they are performing judicial duties, and endeavour evidently to perform them in a very admirable manner."
These and like judgments settled the jurisdiction and the procedure of the Council sitting as a Tribunal. The meaning and scope of the statutory verdict of the Council —"guilty of infamous conduct in a professional respect"—were given by the definition of the Court of Appeal in 1892. "If it is shown that a medical man, in the pursuit of his profession, has done something with regard to it which would be reasonably regarded as disgraceful or dishonourable by his professional brethren of good repute and competency, then it is open to the Council to say that he has been guilty of 'infamous conduct in a professional respect.'"
I have given these important decisions at length for two reasons. They show, in the first place, the position assigned by the law to the Council's judicial inquiries and the range of its jurisdiction. In the second, they illustrate the process of legal development by which three words in the Act of 1858—"inquiry," "judged," and "guilty"—have inevitably led the Council to become a Court of professional discipline, with duties and powers which were certainly not explicitly set forth in the Statute, if, indeed, they were implicit in the intentions of the Legislature. The guardianship of the Register and of its accuracy, then committed to the Council, had in it the potentiality of a wider and weightier stewardship. The Council of Medical Registration had no choice but to grow into the High Court of Medical Conduct; and observe that the development came about as the result of a series of judicial interpretations. A study of the earlier minutes of the Council shows how tentative, how hesitating, how half-unconscious were its first steps towards the assumption of judicial functions. It hardly knew that it was a judicial tribunal in posse; it scarcely realized what precautions as to procedure were necessary to make its inquiries "due"