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No doctor should be untouchable

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 18 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2338
  1. Peter Wilmshurst, honorary consultant cardiologist, University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent ST4 6QG, UK
  1. peter.wilmshurst{at}

Even very senior doctors must be subject to the same codes of conduct, and to the same sanctions when they are breached, says seasoned whistleblower Peter Wilmshurst


Allegations that Jimmy Savile sexually abused children and vulnerable hospital patients surfaced after his death, when he was no longer protected by the English defamation laws. These laws were designed to protect the wealthy and famous from allegations by poorer citizens by making it difficult and expensive to defend a defamation claim, even if you are telling the truth. Should we blame the cover-up entirely on the libel laws?

There were those in authority at the BBC (where Savile had star status), in hospitals where he had unprecedented access, and in the criminal justice system who had heard reports of his misconduct but failed to act. Victims were told that their testimony would count for little compared with the word of the television star and charity fundraiser. Savile was valuable to the organisations and his victims were not. Savile himself bragged that he was untouchable. Other organisations that have covered up misconduct include the Catholic church over child abuse by …

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