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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June, 2004, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Paediatrician faces GMC hearing
Sally Clark with her husband Steve
Sally Clark was in jail when her husband was accused
A senior paediatrician has been accused of acting irresponsibly by diagnosing child abuse on the basis of a television documentary.

Professor David Southall could be struck off if he is found guilty of professional misconduct.

Professor Southall claimed the husband of cleared solicitor Sally Clark murdered their two babies.

He contacted police after seeing a Steve Clark interview conducted while his wife was in prison for the deaths.

Mrs Clark, who was living in Wilmslow, Cheshire at the time of her conviction, was later released after the Court of Appeal quashed her conviction in January 2003.

The Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, broadcast in April 2000, featured an interview with Mr Clark, in which he described a nosebleed suffered by their first baby Christopher in a London hotel just 10 days before he died in December 1996.

Professor Southall saw the programme and told police it was his view that it was Mr Clark, rather than his wife, who had killed Christopher and his brother Harry.

Investigation

This case is about Professor Southall's dogmatic belief in his own expertise
Richard Tyson
Mr Clark was interviewed by social workers, and the courts appointed another paediatrician to review Professor Southall's claims.

The second paediatrician did not agree with Professor Southall and the matter went no further.

Mr Clark then lodged a complaint against the professor with the GMC in London.

Richard Tyson, opening the case on behalf of the GMC and Mr Clark, said: "This case is about Professor Southall's dogmatic belief in his own expertise which he brought to bear on a case in which he had no professional involvement but in which he intervened in a high-handed fashion largely on the basis of watching a programme on TV."

Mr Tyson said the facts of the case were both "astonishing and extremely serious".

Professor Southall, based at North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke, is one of Britain's leading experts on Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy, a condition which apparently drives parents to harm their own children in order to win attention.

He admits contacting Cheshire police after watching the programme, and forming the view that Steve Clark had deliberately suffocated his son.

However, he denies that his behaviour was irresponsible or an abuse of his professional position and he denies serious professional misconduct.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabati
"The Clarke's case is that this...amounted to serious professional misconduct"



SEE ALSO:
GMC probes Munchausen's doctor
03 Mar 04  |  Health
Mothers fight child abuse claims
03 Mar 04  |  Politics
Cot death expert breaks silence
21 Jan 04  |  Health
Diagnosing cot death
30 Jan 03  |  Breakfast


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