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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Paediatrician faces GMC hearing
Sir Roy Meadow
Sir Roy arrives at the GMC hearing
Paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow, whose theory on cot death has been discredited, is facing a General Medical Council hearing.

Sir Roy was an expert witness in the cases of a string of women wrongly accused of killing their children.

Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony were all freed by the Court of Appeal after serving time in prison.

Sir Roy could be struck off the medical register if found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Meadow cases
Sally Clark: Served three years after being wrongly convicted of killing her two sons
Angela Cannings: Served 18 months after being wrongly convicted of killing her two sons
Donna Anthony: Served six years after being wrongly convicted of killing her son and daughter
Trupti Patel: Cleared of killing three of her children

The GMC will consider evidence he gave at the original 1999 trial of Sally Clark, a solicitor accused of killing her two sons, Christopher and Harry.

Sir Roy said the probability of two natural unexplained cot deaths in the Clark family was 73 million to one.

His calculation was based on a report by the Confidential Enquiry into Sudden Deaths in Infancy, but was later disputed by the Royal Statistical Society, which wrote to the Lord Chancellor to say there was no statistical basis for the claim.

Mrs Clark was eventually freed in 2003, but not as a result of Sir Roy's discredited testimony.

Instead, it had become apparent that another witness at her trial, pathologist Alan Williams, had failed to disclose key medical evidence.

Angela Cannings, wrongly imprisoned for smothering her two sons in 2002, shouted at Sir Roy as he arrived at the hearing on Tuesday morning.

She said: "Any apologies for the families, Professor Meadow, for the families you destroyed? Apologies, that's what we want."

Speaking outside the court, Donna Anthony, convicted of killing her daughter, Jordan, and son, Michael, but later freed by the Court of Appeal, said: "I think this is the beginning of the end for some of us.

"We will just have to see what the GMC decides."

Named syndrome

Sir Roy first came to prominence in 1977 after publishing a paper in The Lancet medical journal on a condition he dubbed Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

His work has undoubtedly saved the lives of many children
Professor Sir Alan Craft

This is a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child.

However, he is most renowned for an observation in a book that became universally known as "Meadow's Law".

This states that "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise".

He has gained a reputation for being particularly severe when confronted with cases of multiple child deaths in one family.

Many supporters, however, have championed Sir Roy, calling him a man of great skill and compassion.

Professor Sir Alan Craft, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "It is important to remember that the allegations against him are only about his use of certain statistics in the trial of Sally Clark.

"Whatever the outcome, I hope that this hearing does not overshadow all the work he has completed over his long and distinguished career, including on Fabricated or Induced Illness, which was formerly known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

"His work has undoubtedly saved the lives of many children."

Doctors "demoralised"

Dr Harvey Marcovitch, a spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "a lot of paediatricians working in the child protection field have felt very demoralised" in recent years.

He said this was because "many of them have had to deal with formal complaints. They have of course read a lot of the press and publicity, some of which is very personally directed at them."

He said there was also concern doctors were now being more cautious about raising the alarm if they suspected a child was being harmed.

Dr Marcovitch added it was "certainly" true the profession had become more unpopular among young doctors.

He said they found 7.5% of consultant posts in community paediatrics were unfilled - compared to around 1% of hospital jobs.

"They are preferring to work in the acute specialties where I suppose they don't come under this sort of pressure," he said.

Sally Clark's lawyer on Sir Roy Meadow's use of statistics

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11 Jan 05 |  England
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12 Apr 05 |  Somerset

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