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The Importance and Rigor of the Medical Certificate in Occupational Health

Every physician, including occupational health physicians, can issue a medical certificate. In a trial, it serves as a piece of evidence. It always binds the responsibility of its author, making it crucial to remain objective and systematic.

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Occupational health is a major field that requires great rigor, especially when drafting medical certificates. In this context, it’s essential to understand the importance of these documents, their structure, and the associated ethical responsibilities.

Every physician, whether a general practitioner or a specialist, especially in occupational health, has the prerogative to issue a medical certificate. In judicial proceedings, this document is of great importance as it constitutes evidentiary material. Hence, it’s important to emphasize that the issuing physician’s responsibility is engaged, making it imperative for the certificate to be objectively and systematically written.

Medical certificates are crucial not only for the patient or victim, as they confer rights but also for the proper functioning of law enforcement and the justice system, such as in cases of total work incapacity.

Structure of the medical certificate

A medical certificate must follow a well-defined structure to ensure its validity:

  • Identification: It should specify the date, time, and location of the examination. The identities of the doctor, patient, their representative, and the requesting authority should be clearly mentioned.
  • Patient’s Statements: It’s essential to accurately transcribe the patient’s statements while strictly adhering to the assigned task.
  • Clinical Examination: The physician should describe the clinical findings accurately and objectively. Using diagrams or photographs can be beneficial.
  • Additional Tests: If extra tests have been prescribed, their critical results should be included.
  • Discussion: The physician must remain impartial in their discussion, avoiding any bias.
  • Conclusion: It should clearly address the questions posed in the context of the request.

It’s strongly recommended to keep a copy of the certificate for future reference.

  • Recipient: The certificate can be handed to the patient or their legal representative or requested by the competent authorities.
  • Author’s Qualifications: Only physicians with full practicing rights can draft these documents. Medical interns or junior doctors are excluded from this responsibility.
  • Neutrality: A doctor must ensure their neutrality and recuse themselves if necessary. They are also obligated not to interfere in personal matters or exceed their expertise.

Illustratively, some occupational health doctors have been penalized for issuing complacent certificates, particularly where they had not personally ascertained the facts. This highlights the seriousness of the responsibilities borne by the physician.

In conclusion:

Drafting medical certificates is a serious task that demands precision, objectivity, and rigor. Ensuring their reliability is vital to uphold justice and protect patients’ rights in the professional environment.

Philippe Casanova

Specialist in occupational medicine and forensic medicine.