Irish judge's stunning display forces rethink on lecture style

October 2, 2008



It was a special moment of conference drama: a High Court judge giving a carefully crafted presentation about how doctors should conduct themselves in medicolegal cases. The atmosphere was electric. Attendees listened as if their very livelihoods depended on it, knowing that senior lawyers rarely share their wisdom and trade secrets in this way. Such moments are a major reason why so many people still feel the need to attend live meetings rather than rely only on Internet chat rooms and e-forums.

You can read more about this session in the news section of this issue. As an appetizer, a popular and respected past president of the U.K. Royal College of Radiologists, Prof. Peter Armstrong, gave a practical lecture about the radiologist's role as an expert witness.

Furthermore, in a delicious irony and subplot, the moderator of the session called "Doctors in the dock," Prof. Peter Dawson, had himself been embroiled in a bitter legal dispute at London's Hammersmith Hospital in the late 1990s. Few other European radiologists have such extensive personal experience of the medicolegal process.

But the most impressive part of the 90-minute slot at June's U.K. Radiological Congress may have been the fact that the judge, the Honorable Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, relied solely on handwritten notes.

It helped, of course, that Kelly has a soft, lilting southern Irish accent and an uncluttered mind that is clearly used to handling complex briefs and difficult situations. Also, nothing is guaranteed to grab the attention of doctors more than a lecture that may help them avoid being sued. His performance, however, does prompt questions about whether conference speakers rely too heavily on technological aids rather than the quality of their message.

Tools like PowerPoint have transformed meetings during the past two decades. In a field such as medical imaging that relies so heavily on the use of graphics and video clips, it is inevitable that presenters will make use of every piece of IT at their disposal. The danger, though, is that their output can become overdesigned and too slick and lacking in variation.

Another highlight in this edition of DI Europe is the second installment of Dr. Paul Dubbins' new column. Some readers will remember his "Grumpy Old Man in Vienna" sketch on ECR TV and Radio during the 2006 congress, when he tried in vain to find fault with the work of the organizers. We hope that you enjoy Dr. Dubbins' short and easy-to-read articles over the coming months and that you find them entertaining and illuminating. His perspective on a range of issues affecting the daily working lives of doctors is invariably witty and original.

If you have any feedback on A Dose of Dubbins or other items, please contact me at philipward1@btconnect.com. It's always a pleasure to hear from you.