Intended for healthcare professionals


The Bristol affair

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 12 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1659

Surgeons were treated unjustly

  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. Emeritus professor of perinatal medicine and child health..University of Bristol, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB
  2. General Medical Council, London W1N 6JE

    E—James Garrett claims credit for exposing “the medical scandal of the century”1 and accuses me of wishing to shoot the messenger.2 He may come to regret this claim for there is a growing perception that the actual scandal lies in the unjust way in which the surgeons have been treated.

    Garrett believes that he reported the case fairly in his Dispatches programme and in the many documentaries that followed. But how often did he report the fact that the 50 or so patients subject to the General Medical Council's inquiry represented less than 4% of the surgeon's paediatric practice in 1990-5? Did he report that a disproportionate number of the infants under scrutiny were at particularly high risk? Has he reported the president's tribute to the surgeons' commitment, hard work, and best of intentions or the legal assessor's statement that they were of unimpeachable character? Has he given publicity to the fact that the original charges of clinical and technical incompetence had been dismissed, or that the principal remaining charge rested on a fine professional judgment as to whether the surgeons should have stopped operating two or three patients earlier than they did?

    Garrett asserts …

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