The GMC'S judgement against Roy Meadow could put children at greater risk of abuse

July 21, 2005

The verdict of serious professional misconduct given by the UK's General Medical Council (GMC) against Professor Roy Meadow last week was not only unjust but will also profoundly damage the future of child protection services in Britain, states a comment in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, writes that the real danger of the judgment against Meadow is that, by worsening the professional conditions in which child protection services are provided, children will be put at greater risk of abuse and murder. He argues that the GMC's decision removes any incentive for the reform of judicial procedures that fail to deal properly with expert evidence. He states that trainee paediatricians are now less likely to seek a career in child protection, while those in the field may weaken their conclusions about alleged child abuse in court to avoid the aggressive and improper intrusion of the GMC into their work. Horton also accuses the GMC of making an unfair example of Meadow in the wake of the Harold Shipman case in order to protect its own status. He writes: "Many doctors today believe that the GMC is acting more out of self interest than public interest. It is impossible to put into words the low esteem with which the GMC is currently held by many among the rank and file of medicine in the UK today. This is not only bad for doctors; it is also bad for patients."

Dr Horton adds: "The real danger of the judgment against Meadow is that, by worsening the professional conditions in which child protection services are provided, children will be put at greater risk of abuse and murder. Only last week it was revealed that, 5 years after the death of Victoria Climbié, children are still insufficiently protected from the violence perpetrated on them by adults. The way we think about children in society reflects the very health of that society. The signs are that there is an aspect of Britain which is indeed profoundly sick. The lamentable judgment against Roy Meadow is further evidence that this is so. He now has 28 days to appeal the GMC's verdict. On behalf of children and his colleagues working in paediatrics and child protection everywhere, he should certainly feel encouraged and supported in challenging this perverse determination. Justice has yet to be seen to be done in this case."
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Contact: The Lancet press office on 44-207-424-4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com

Lancet

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