Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment Child abuse

Royal college rewrites child protection history

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 20 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:194
  1. Jonathan Gornall (, freelance journalist1
  1. 1 London E1 7LQ

    The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has not mentioned research work by Roy Meadow and David Southall in its advice on child protection. Is this sending the right message to paediatricians?

    In much the same way as Stalin had people who had fallen from favour airbrushed out of photographs during the Soviet purges of the 1930s, so the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health seems to have shed virtually all reference to its two most troublesome members in a new handbook Child Protection Companion.1 Paediatricians, already feeling beleaguered thanks to a concerted public and media campaign against individual doctors, will be dismayed that Roy Meadow and David Southall seem to have been written out of the medical history book by their own college. By omitting the controversial pair, whose work in the difficult field of child protection nevertheless provides much of the evidence bedrock for today's practices, the college seems to have framed the handbook in such a way as to appease the two paediatricians' critics.

    The handbook contains sections on fabricated or induced illness, imposed upper airway obstruction, and covert video surveillance—specialties pioneered and dominated by Professors Meadow and Southall. On page 17, at the beginning of chapter 6 on Recognition of Maltreatment, the authors of the handbook state: “Throughout this document, where evidence exists, it has been referenced,”1 yet there is not a single reference to original research by either Southall or Meadow. Not even Professor Meadow's seminal 1977 paper, in which he coined the term Munchausen syndrome by proxy, is referenced.2

    Nevertheless, 80 of chapter 6's 100 references are to individual papers by other researchers.1 A spokesperson for the college denied that references had been deliberately omitted. The handbook, she pointed out, did include several references to the guidelines …

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