Intended for healthcare professionals


Peter Betts: saved many normal short children from unnecessary growth hormone treatment

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 14 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m116
  1. Tim Betts, consultant cardiologist1,
  2. Alan Craft, emeritus professor of child health2
  1. 1Oxford, UK
  2. 2Newcastle, UK

Peter Betts undertook his paediatric training in Birmingham at a time when the many current subspecialties were beginning to develop. He was drawn to endocrinology and in 1978 was appointed consultant in Winchester and Southampton; he moved to Southampton full time in 1989.

For children who were found to be short with growth hormone deficiency, human growth hormone was available to restore them to normal height, but very strict criteria had been developed to make sure this precious resource was properly used. The advent of synthetic growth hormone led to the possibility that constitutionally short (that is, short, normal) children might be made taller. At the time it was thought that short children were at a social and educational disadvantage, based on the presumption that being short was detrimental to a child’s development and, in particular, that personality and psychological functioning were adversely affected. If this were true, then almost 3% of a normal population would be under the third centile for height and potentially might be helped to achieve greater height by regular injections of growth hormone during their childhood and teenage years. Betts …

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