Angry patients have criticised the General Medical Council (GMC) for allowing Professor Sam Eljamel, a former Tayside surgeon, to escape facing justice by removing himself voluntarily from the register.
The GMC said the move would protect patients as Eljamel is no longer able to practise in the UK and he would have to face the charges if he wanted to be reinstated.
Former patient Patrick Kelly, of Dundee, told BBC Scotland he had surgery to remove or shave a spinal disc in 2007 but scans have since suggested that the disc in question was not touched. He nearly died after the operation from a haemorrhage.
Prof Eljamel was suspended from his role at Ninewells Hospital, in Dundee, when the accusations first came to light.
The decision was described as “a slap in the face” by lawyer Patrick McGuire, who is representing some of the 100 patients who claim to have been left with long-term health difficulties. Mr McGuire, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The GMC and the Scottish NHS really must take a look at this and tighten things up so that medical professionals cannot simply absent themselves from the GMC list and so escape any censure.
“That Professor Eljamel has been allowed to voluntarily remove himself from the medical register is simply not acceptable and the medical profession must stop this sort of thing happening in the future.”
More than 300 people signed an online petition six months ago, calling on the Scottish Government to hold an inquiry into the surgeon’s conduct. Ministers announced earlier this month that an inquiry would not go ahead, but apologised to all the patients affected.
The GMC said the number of doctors granted “voluntary erasure” who are subject to its fitness to practise procedures are extremely small.
Chief executive Niall Dickson said: “Where there have been serious concerns about their medical practice, it means we can guarantee that a doctor will never be able to put patients at risk again. If a doctor who has removed themselves from the register wishes to be reinstated in the future, any unresolved investigations would be reopened.
“We understand that when this happens it can be very upsetting for the patients involved who understandably want to see that doctor go through the fitness to practise process, but our priority must be to prevent further harm being caused.”
The body said it had been collaborating with the Scottish Government to reform the system so doctors would be allowed to leave the register but the circumstances of their departure would be made clear.
A solicitor for Prof Eljamel said he had no comment to make.