Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The evidence base in child protection litigation

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 20 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:160

Rapid Response:

and in the land of the free....

Chadwick conludes, “….doctors require the sort of protections
generally provided by the laws on child abuse reporting and witness
immunity that prevail in the US.” I think someone had better tell us what
these protections available to doctors actually, are. I include an
annotation from The New York Times 2004 which appeared in a paediatric
journal, which clearly does not paint such a wonderful picture in the land
of the free.

Incidentally in England, libel proceedings are not possible on sworn
evidence as such evidence is privileged, so what follows in the article
below could not happen in England. If evidence is wrong, then perjury
could be alleged. Indeed it is notable that untrue oral evidence had been
a basis for a finding of serious professional misconduct at the GMC (1,2)

I think the point Chadwick should be making loudly, is that it is not
and never was, the function of the General Medical Council to do in child
protection. No wonder it is getting reformed, it needs it. (BMJ this issue
p. 163)


“A San Francisco internist and an occasional expert witness in
medical malpractice suits opened a letter from the Florida Medical
Association not long ago. Inside, was a complaint from 3 doctors about
expert testimony he had given for the patient in a malpractice case
against them in Tampa last year. The doctors had won, and now they wanted
the medical association to punish [the expert] for what they said were his
‘erroneous opinions.’ [The expert] filed his own lawsuit last month in
Tallahassee, saying the doctors and the association had libelled him.
Legal experts say the suit is the first to use a libel claim to challenge
charges made in a medical disciplinary proceeding concerning expert
testimony. The duelling disputes have a question in common: should medical
groups have the power to discipline doctors for their expert testimony?
Medical groups say they can help weed out incompetent and dishonest
experts. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say the groups’ real goal is to silence
doctors who testify for plaintiffs. And legal experts say the case in
Florida shows that the entire malpractice system has gone off the rails.
Several medical societies have created tribunals to consider complaints
that expert testimony by their members was substandard.”

Liptak A. New York Times. June 20, 2004

Noted by JFL, MD

Submitted by Oliver R Dearlove

References for the text,
1.Daily Telegraph. Surgeon lied under oath 2 December 2000
2.R v General medical Council ex parte Kypros Nicolaides Lloyds Law
Reports Medical (2000) 525-529

Competing interests:
Like many of his colleagues, the author steers well away from child protection work - an easy task as he is an anaesthetist

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 July 2006
Oliver R Dearlove
Consultant Anaesthetist
Royal Manchester Children's Hospital M27 4HA