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:

Child abuse evidence base is not robust

Kemp, Sibert and Maguire write: "Expert witnesses appearing in court
require a thorough understanding of the quality of the available
scientific evidence and must be able to convey this to the Court in an
understandable manner. Courts and clinicians need to appreciate that child
abuse evidence base is a long way from being robust or complete..."

I very much welcome the fact that these particular workers have done
the research and come to the conclusion which I reached back in 1996 after
being an Expert Witness in a court case in which Munchausen Syndrome by
proxy was being alleged.

My published article in The Psychologist (1) states: " I cannot
estabish a robust scientific base .... I am of the opinion that we need to
clarify the nature of MSBP with some urgency. That some disturbed women
are known to have seriously harmed their children should not lead to
distortions of thinking in which many are assumed to have done so. One
swallow does not make a summer."

Tragically, as John Stone writes, such assumptions based on such
theories without robust research to back them up, have now coursed their
way through the entire system.

Training and guidance based on such theories - as Patricia Hamilton,
President of the RCPCH confirms on - has been and continues to be
handed down to multiple thousands of workers with no qualifications in
medicine/psychology or psychiatry. So the errors which have happened in
Court are now spread far and wide through the system and have the
potential to negatively affect untold numbers of children and families
whose cases may never reach Court.

The potential for a social disaster that I wrote about all those
years ago has become a reality.

1. Blakemore-Brown LC Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Letters The
Psychologist September 1997

Competing interests:
Expert in Autism and related disorders frequently misinterpreted as child abuse

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 August 2006
LC Blakemore-Brown