Dr David Southall: Miscreant or Misunderstood?

19 AUG 2009

Catherine Williams, Reader in Law, Sheffield University

There is an irony in the fact that on the very same day that one judge, in the Baby P case, said that paediatricians should be much more wary and challenging of parents who might be deceitful, another judge upheld the erasure of a prominent paediatrician, Dr David Southall, for doing as he, and many others, had thought was just that. The Baby P doctor, Dr Al Sabah, has been reported to the GMC, who have currently suspended her registration. Dr Southall's name has been erased from the medical register and he is prevented from practising. Doctors could not possibly get any more conflicting judicial messages and the only possible effect of the juxtaposition of these two messages is paralysis. What should paediatricians do? At the moment the message appears to be: if you do not challenge a parent you may be prevented from practising and if you do challenge a parent you may be prevented from practising. Either way, your career is in ruins. The full facts surrounding Dr Al Sabah's clinical decisions will no doubt become apparent in the future. However, this article seeks to examine the decision of Mr Justice Blake in the Southall case (Southall v General Medical Council [2009] EWHC 1155 (Admin), [2009] 2 FLR (forthcoming).

To read the rest of this article, see September [2009] Family Law journal.

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