Don't prejudge

April 9, 1999

Your article "Culture of subterfuge" (THES, February 26) makes a number of serious allegations about research and other work at the North Staffordshire Hospital.

The use of words such as "scandal" and "subterfuge" prejudges the outcome of a review being conducted on behalf of the junior health minister, Baroness Hayman, and a General Medical Council investigation. This implies that the hospital trust is not cooperating with the GMC and is delaying or denying access to consent forms relevant to their inquiry.

This is not true. The trust has welcomed the review and the GMC investigation and is cooperating fully with both. The author, as a doctor and editor of Bulletin of Medical Ethics, knows that consent forms are part of a patient's confidential medical records. They cannot be released to any third party, including the GMC, without the permission of the patient, or in this case the parent acting on behalf of the patient. The hospital is cooperating with the GMC to obtain that consent from the parents in order that the GMC may have access to those forms at the earliest possible opportunity.

The trust has taken the view that it is inappropriate to debate through the media the issues under review until the review and investigation are complete and their findings are reported.

It is a shame that you have decided not to await these independent conclusions before publishing your own or someone else's.

Mervyn Gamage. Communications manager. North Staffordshire Hospital. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

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