The Seriously Unhealthy State of Paediatrics

By Charles Pragnell 

December 10, 2007

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health [RCPCH) and several prominent U.K. paediatricians have given their unqualified support to Dr. David Southall, despite the fact that Mr Southall has been found to have guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council on two occasions in recent years. It must be presumed therefore that the RCPCH are fully in support of Mr. Southall’s conduct on those occasions and that they view his actions as acceptable conduct in the paediatric profession.

In the past the RCPCH have argued powerfully that patients of paediatricians should not be allowed to complain about the paediatrician’s conduct or incompetence or alternatively that such complaints should be automatically treated as frivolous or vexatious. They now add to this by arguing that even if such complaints are proven, then the paediatrician should be exonerated or at the least completely pardoned for his/her misconduct. The only argument the RCPCH can put forward for such a system is that finding paediatricians guilty of serious misconduct will deter other doctors from undertaking child protection work. They have already convinced the Courts that paediatricians should not be accountable for any professional misconduct when they are giving evidence to Courts and they use the case of Victoria Climbie’ to illustrate their point that children are suffering yet in that case there were 13 agencies, including health and medical workers, who already knew that Victoria Climbie’ was at serious risk of harm.

Who made paediatricians God for eternity that they should be viewed as unable to do any wrong? If this is the state of paediatrics in the U.K. that paediatricians should be beyond reproach and completely unaccountable for any harm they may cause, then paediatrics really is in a serious state. 

Why should the principle that `no-one is above the law’ and is responsible and can be held accountable for their conduct, not apply to paediatricians when it applies to monarchs and other State Leaders?  To place any individual or group above the law is the first step towards tyranny and the accompanying harm to others.

The case against Mr. Southall is part of a much wider malaise which has infected the child protection services in the U.K. and has illustrated yet again the deep-seated and problematic operations of the child protection system in the UK. And the British government continue to keep their heads in the sand regarding the very serious problems and dysfunctional operation of the child protection system in the U.K.

How many more children such as Victoria Climbie’ must die while child protection `professionals’ prevaricate and dither instead of taking incisive action and yet on the other hand, persecute children and parents where allegations of abuse are at the least spurious and of extremely dubious  merit, and at worst are malicious and totally unfounded? The worn-out cliché’s of `Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t’ and `Lessons have been learned’ are no longer acceptable as responses from those professionals when the very system designed to protect children and keep them safe from harm has in fact become the worst and most prolific perpetrator  of child abuse and is increasingly destroying families around Britain. Some families who are entirely innocent of the crimes they are alleged to have committed against their children and others who merely require help in coping with the needs of chronically sick or disabled children or appropriate education provision for their children but because of the serious shortcomings and incompetency's in the agencies charged with providing those services, they are blamed by those agencies for causing their child’s sickness or disability.

The frequent Public Inquiries into child deaths and in Court and GMC proceedings over recent years have all painfully illustrated that the child protection system and the associated legal system is deeply-flawed, erratic, and dysfunctional and in urgent need of a major overhaul. Unfortunately changes to the system which have emanated from those Inquiries and Proceedings have been piecemeal and whilst some have led to minor improvements, many have caused even greater problems. Many parents who have experienced the punitive interventions of the child protection system feel that there is a witch-hunt against them and that their human rights and those of their children are frequently abused and violated and that they are the unwitting victims in a governmental inspired social engineering experiment. Their children have been removed from their care on the basis of fabricated, embellished, or distorted evidence or the flimsiest of such evidence and their children removed from their family into a government-supported system of substitute parental care and they have been permanently excluded from their children’s lives.

Many of these parents have shared their harrowing experiences with each other because of the increasing advances of technology and the worldwide availability of discussion forums, but there is no orchestrated campaign against the professionals involved, only individual fights for truth and justice in their individual cases. If all of those parents were to gather into a single organisation they would undoubtedly become an irresistible force for change.

If doctors and any other child protection professionals are becoming discouraged from undertaking child protection work then it is they who must examine how to put their house in order. It is the unprincipled, egotistical and tyrannical professionals who are creating the problems, not the parents.

Bringing actions against rogue professionals is almost impossible for these parents as those professionals have such little accountability under the law, their professional standards authorities, and under their employment contracts and it is this lack of accountability which has enabled such rogue professionals to flourish knowing their employers and a small minority of their colleagues will always support them under a mantra of  “My professional colleague, right or wrong” as in this case with the RCPCH and the small group of paediatricians. Similarly employers of doctors and social workers are blindly defending their employees in order to protect themselves from any subsequent claims for damages which might arise from the improper actions of their employees.

But before any changes to the child protection system can be enacted there must be a full and open major Inquiry which gives the opportunity to these parents and their children to fully state their experiences as the small number of parents have been able to do at the GMC Hearings against Mr. Southall. The GMC Hearings in regard to Drs. Meadow, Southall, and San Lazaro are merely the tip of a massive iceberg of discontent at the serious miscarriages of justice and abuses and injustices which are daily perpetrated on children and families by social work and medical practitioners engaged in the child protection system. No family is immune or protected from these rogue professionals and as has been shown, even taking a seriously ill child to a hospital or medical centre can result in horrendous consequences if the doctor lacks the knowledge to diagnose the child’s illness or disabilities or has another agenda of research and development for his/her own purposes.

The real danger which is now occurring is that many parents are not taking their sick and disabled children to doctors and other medical practitioners because of their great fears that they will be precipitately accused of causing the child’s illness and disabilities with no means of defending themselves against such charges and they are terrified that they will forever be deprived of the right to love and care for their own children. Ultimately therefore it is of no matter whether paediatricians or any other doctor are reluctant to engage in child protection work as parents will no longer be bringing sick, disabled, or injured children to receive help and treatment from medical professionals but will be seeking other forms of treatment or self-treating or simply watching painfully as their children suffer.