Monday, September 22, 2008

Dangerously opinionated British doctor back at work

Let us just hope that he is never again called in evidence about anything

A paediatrician found guilty of serious professional misconduct after accusing a father of murdering his two baby sons has been allowed to return to child protection work. David Southall made the claim having watched a television programme about the case of Sally Clark, a solicitor who was convicted of murdering her children and jailed in 1999.

The programme was broadcast in April 2000 and featured an interview with Mrs Clark's husband, Steve. After watching it Dr Southall claimed that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Mr Clark had killed the babies. The consultant was subsequently banned from child protection work by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Mrs Clark was cleared by the Court of Appeal and released from prison in January 2003. She never recovered from the trauma and died of natural causes last March, aged 42.

The GMC has since found Dr Southall, 60, guilty of serious professional misconduct in another, separate case in which he was said to have accused a grieving mother of murdering her ten-year-old son. Yesterday the council revoked the earlier restrictions on his practice with immediate effect.

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Southall said: “I would like to say how pleased I am by the General Medical Council's decision today. I would like to thank my paediatric colleagues, especially those who came to give evidence on my behalf.”

Andrew Reid, chairman of the GMC's fitness-to-practise panel, said the doctor had expressed regret and remorse for his actions and demonstrated “considerable insight” into his failings.

Dr Southall told the panel last month that he still thought that he had been correct in raising the alarm over Mr Clark, but admitted that the language he had used in the accusation had been injudicious.

He believed that Mr Clark had tried to suffocate his eldest son, Christopher, in a London hotel room in 1996. He came to that conclusion after hearing, in an interview on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Mr Clark describe how the child had suffered a nose bleed and breathing difficulties. He wrote a report on the Clarks after talking to social workers and police officers involved in the case.

He said that he owed an apology to the late Mrs Clark for his assumption that if her husband had smothered Christopher, who was 11 weeks old, he must also have killed their second son, Harry, who died 13 months later aged 8 weeks. Mr Clark was exonerated. Dr Southall maintained that the incident in the hotel room “has not been explained by the passage of time”.

The GMC recommended that Dr Southall be struck off the medical register after finding him guilty of misconduct for a second time in December. But the High Court overturned an immediate suspension from work pending the outcome of an appeal that will be heard at the High Court in January.

In February last year the Government announced that a review would be held into a number of criminal cases in which Dr Southall had given evidence for the prosecution after allegations that he had inappropriately kept up to 4,450 personal case files on child patients.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

No comments: