The evolution of deception
In 1985, a senior officer of the NSW Health Commission suggested to Wright that he should document and report to divisional heads all unacceptable events affecting his patients during and after surgery. Within a week of his doing so, there was violent retaliation from several colleagues who felt threatened by Wright’s observation. With support from administrators and paediatricians, they generated a threat to “strike” unless Wright was severely censured and disciplined.
No other clinical group dared to support Wright for fear of retaliation by the same group but the Head of Paediatrics immediately offered Wright a powerful, new post with full academic and departmental support to take charge of all paediatric cardiac activities at the Sydney Children’s Hospital. Wright was delighted as it had always been his highest ambition but, a month after he settled into new quarters, the Director repeatedly declared the post fictitious and Wright was left with a new office and secretary but no other support.
The Head of Paediatrics admitted he had designed this subterfuge to placate the anaesthetists whom Wright had criticised for their dangerous procedures and wanted him isolated. Meantime, the paediatrician stated that he would take over all cardiac authority, pose as a cardiologist and leave Wright with no post, no staff, no duties, no junior support, no future and a trashed reputation. That mockery was demanded by those whom Wright had corrected, criticised or reported for dangerous practices … at the suggestion of the NSW Health Commission.
The final step in Wright’s destruction was the establishment of a massive “sham peer-review” process which was widely publicised and showed no evidence of Wright’s incompetence. Wright’s major critics pretended to have cardiac expertise and falsified their credentials. An eminent, independent expert who was invited to assess Wright’s past work gave his opinion that Wright’s competence was assured and that those who were now speaking violently against him were not peers or experts.
As soon as the expert’s report was tabled in December 1986, it was mislaid or lost by the hospital for 10 years. So frustrated was Health Minister Refshauge by this farce, that he sent his driver to Wright’s home secretly at night to obtain a copy of the expert’s report for his own safe-keeping. But it remained elusive for a further 10 years. Foreseeing that this charade was by now permanent, Wright rejected any further hospital appointment and left the public health service of NSW forever. During his long experience, Wright’s medical licence has never been challenged.
A year later, the NSW Supreme Court ruled that he was competent but the nature of his contract allowed him no right of appeal against the hospital’s procedures. As he was approaching 60, Wright never returned to heart surgery. The hospital had never investigated the performance of those whom he had criticised. They continued to conceal dangerous practices, some of which frustrated the most exhaustive investigations by State Coroners.
Today, 30 years since his egregious treatment at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, John Wright has never met a medical person for review of his situation and his correspondence goes unanswered.
A detailed look at the factors that demanded exposure.
How could bureaucrats insist that work as critical as his, work described by Justice Bryson of NSW Supreme Court on 4 September, 1987 as being,
"...in the difficult terrain of public hospital administration you succeeded in establishing a highly successful surgical unit at The Prince Henry Hospital and another at The Prince of Wales Children’s Hospital."