Disgraced paediatrician Dr David Southall loses battle to be reinstated on medical register
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:56 AM on 22nd May 2009
Dr David Southall
Controversial figure: Dr David Southall had challenged the decision of a fitness of practise panel
Controversial paediatrician Dr David Southall today lost his High Court battle against a decision to strike him off the medical register for serious professional misconduct.
The General Medical Council's (GMC) fitness to practise panel decided in December 2007 that he abused his position by accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her son.
The panel found that Dr Southall's actions added to the distress of the mother - Mrs M, from Shropshire - whose 10-year-old boy hanged himself in 1996.
It accused him of having a 'deep-seated attitudinal problem'.
Dr Southall made the accusations after being asked by a county council to provide an independent expert report related to the safety of Mrs M's surviving son.
His lawyers argued at the High Court that the panel failed to give any or adequate weight to inconsistencies in Mrs M's evidence, and to the totality of evidence from witnesses, including social workers.
They said it was Dr Southall's concern that the panel 'did not understand, certainly in its final form, what child protection involved and the part played by doctors like him'.
But today Mr Justice Blake, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled the decision to strike him off was justified.
The judge said: 'He was speculating on non-medical matters in an offensive manner entirely inconsistent with the status of an independent expert.'
The judge added: 'I am satisfied that the panel was entitled to reach the conclusion that nothing less than erasure would suffice to maintain confidence in the medical profession in general and the specialist discipline concerned with the difficult task of giving expert evidence in child protection cases in particular.'
Dr Southall's conduct 'was not a mere error of judgment in a challenging environment where there may have been few established principles for guidance'.
Neither was it 'a one-off failure with respect to the treatment of parents whose conduct had come under scrutiny'.
The judge said: 'Public confidence in the science of expert assessment in those cases where serious issues of child protection were indeed raised would be undermined if egregious behaviour of the kind under consideration here, when combined with the lack of insight into, or acknowledgement of, its nature and extent, was considered to be compatible with continued registration as a medical practitioner.'
The case of Mrs M marked the second time in three years that Dr Southall had been found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
In 2004 he was suspended from child protection work over his role in the case of Sally Clark, wrongly jailed over the death of her two sons.
Dr Southall accused Mrs Clark's husband Steve of murdering the two boys on the basis of a television interview.
He was banned from child protection work for three years, a ban which expired last year.
Dr Southall is viewed as an expert in Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition which means parents deliberately induce or fabricate illnesses in their children to get attention for themselves.
He pioneered the use of covert video surveillance in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which led to a number of parents and step parents being prosecuted for abuse.
Dr Southall faced another GMC hearing into work that he carried out in the early 1990s, testing a new type of ventilator for premature babies.
But accusations that he failed to gain proper consent for the work were dismissed.
Dr Southall worked as a consultant paediatrician at London's Royal Brompton Hospital from 1982 before moving to the same post at the North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent in 1992.