ATHENS – It’s a common practice among Greek doctors to solicit bribes in return for operating or better treatment and rarely punished but a disciplinary committee of the national health system (ESY) found a doctor guilty of the crime, two years after being arrested and without naming the offender, to protect his privacy rights.
He had been accused of demanding and receiving a bribe to perform surgery on a patient at the University Hospital of Evros in Alexandroupoli, northern Greece, for which he had received an 18-month suspended sentence by a court in Alexandroupoli for the same case.
The doctor had claimed that he received the bribe as an upfront fee to provide post-surgery treatment and no further details were given despite the extent of the practice that led the notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas to break into the office of one physician in Athens and threaten to harm him if he kept asking for bribes.
It’s not reported whether the doctors are allowed to keep practicing after being found guilty of asking for bribes to do their duty, also violating the ancient Hippocratic oath that physicians take, promising to first, do no harm.
In February, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist from the University General Hospital of Alexandroupoli in northern Greece was fired for demanding bribes. The National Health Service’s central disciplinary council ordered the dismissal, almost three years after the incident, said Kathimerini, with the decision only now revealed without any indication whether the doctor was allowed to keep working.
“The patient who reported the incident was successfully operated on by another specialist,” the hospital said. The criminal doctor wasn’t named in this case either.
“Anyone making a complaint should not be afraid. There are many capable medics who are also extremely honest,” it added, noting that “in all cases of bribe-taking the punishment will be merciless,” without explaining why if that’s the case it took so long for a decision.
Earlier in February, a Greek surgeon charged with demanding a bribe from a cancer patient was released from pretrial custody on 20,000 euros ($22,836) bail but still not named with no indication when, or if he would be prosecuted.
The 50-year-old doctor at the Ippokratio General Hospital in Athens was arrested after authorities said he took a bribe a bribe in marked bills that he had demanded from a patient in order to perform an operation, a routine procedure in Greece where patients often hand physicians envelopes known as “fakelaki,” to insure better care or face pain by themselves.
The patient, who has been diagnosed with cancer, said he had already paid two bribes to the same doctor, a gastroenterologist, for two other operations, said Kathimerini, citing a police report he filed saying the doctor behaved “indifferently” to his condition even though he had received a total of 2,650 euros ($3026) for the two previous operations and was demanding a further 600 euros ($685), threatening otherwise not to treat him for heavy bleeding that followed surgery.
A number of doctors have been arrested in similar cases with no major prosecutions reported and the phenomenon seemingly unstoppable in Greece, which has one of the worst records for corruption in the European Union.