The NSW Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge by an international medical graduate against the Australian Medical Council and AHPRA in relation to an IMG Assessment.

In the decision of Tanious v AMC and AHPRA [2015] NSWSC 447 the IMG sought to challenge the assessment process for general registration, involving a written multiple choice exam and a practical clinical assessment component.

Whilst the IMG had passed the multiple choice examination, he had, on 4 occasions, failed the clinical component.  He was assessed in respect of a total of 16 stations, 15 of which he failed.

Whilst the action by the IMG failed on the basis of procedural issues, it highlights the difficulty in challenging examination outcomes before a Court, seeking the Court to make a different decision, or substituting its own decision for that of the examination process.

The IMG was, in effect, asking the Court to adjudicate upon academic or examination standards, which it was clearly not in a position to do.  It asked the Court to assess the accuracy of the results of the clinical assessments, which was not possible within the context of Court proceedings.

The Court concluded:

“The [IMG] is, in effect, asking this Court to substitute its own views for those of the appropriately qualified representatives of the [AMC] who supervised the assessment and who assessed the [IMGs] performance. … There is no legal foundation for doing so.  No reasonable cause of action is disclosed …”

This case highlights the difficulties of anyone challenging the outcomes of examinations or assessments, where appropriately qualified people are asked to make a clinical judgment or a professional assessment of the skills and standards of an applicant.

Whilst there are some circumstances where the Court determines that there is a procedural error in the examination or the assessment, at best the Court is likely to refer the matter back to the relevant body for the examination or the assessment to be conducted afresh.

This decision has implications for the processes of all medical colleges and all professional bodies undertaking examinations or assessments of health practitioners.