Reviews PERSONAL VIEWS

Punishment by process

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7442.774 (Published 25 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:774
  1. Andrew Spencer (Andy.spencer@uhns.nhs.uk), consultant paediatrician and reader in neonatal medicine
  1. University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, Stoke-on-Trent

    On Monday 1 March I tore open a white envelope, anxious to devour the contents. The envelope bore the distinctive insignia of the General Medical Council. I was soon to discover whether I would be facing a public hearing.

    Back in 1989 I had agreed to be the local coordinator for a multicentre randomised controlled trial of negative pressure support for preterm infants with respiratory distress, to reduce the number of babies developing serious chronic lung disease. During the study, which ran to August 1993, I had no cause for concern about any aspect of the trial. The results were published in Pediatrics in December 1996.

    The complaints started in August 1994. Initially these were dealt with by discussion with concerned parents and written responses through the hospital's complaint procedure. But then a campaign was launched in the local press in 1997 inviting parents who had children in the trial to contact a local solicitor. Complaints were sent to a wide range of bodies, including the police, coroner's office, health department, and the health authority. Attempts to answer complaints …

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