Child medics 'disturbed' by GMC ruling

June 18, 2004

The General Medical Council's ruling against paediatrician David Southall could drive experts away from child protection work, leading medics claimed this week, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The GMC found on Tuesday that Professor Southall, a consultant paediatrician at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, abused his professional position by accusing a father of murdering his two babies after watching a TV documentary.

The council will decide in August if Professor Southall's actions amounted to serious professional misconduct, which could lead to him being struck off the medical register.

Experts in his field reacted with shock to the GMC decision, warning that it might prevent other doctors from speaking out about suspected child abuse in the future.

Sir David Hall, professor of community paediatrics at Sheffield University and former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "Paediatricians will be deeply disturbed about the implications.

"Although David Southall is undoubtedly outspoken and he can say things too strongly, he is also one of the pioneers in understanding this subject better."

The RCPCH has warned that doctors may soon stop appearing in court to defend abused children because of violence and intimidation from accused parents.

A spokesperson for the college said: "We can't comment on the detail of the case, but it will add to the sense of child protection doctors that they are to a certain extent beleaguered."

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