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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 16:44 GMT
Profile: Dr David Southall
By Alison Holt
BBC News Social Affairs Correspondent

Dr David Southall
Dr Southall's career has been full of controversy
Dr David Southall is a controversial paediatrician who evokes strong feelings amongst many of those who have had dealings with him.

On the one hand he has been praised as a pioneering researcher, but on the other he has been accused of being a "very dangerous doctor" who doesn't deserve his place in the medical profession.

This is not the first time he has appeared before the General Medical Council (GMC). In 2004 he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Southall accused a father of murdering his two baby sons based on a television interview.

Steve Clark was taking part in a documentary examining what was later proved to be the wrongful conviction of his wife Sally for the murder of the two boys.

The barrister putting the Clark's case, described Dr Southall as "a very dangerous doctor".

He was banned from child protection work for three years.

Controversial research

His research at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and at University Hospital, North Staffordshire, has also led to controversy.

He is viewed as an expert in Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition which means parents deliberately induce or fabricate illnesses in their children to get attention for themselves.

He pioneered the use of covert video surveillance in the late eighties and early nineties, which led to a number of parents and step parents being prosecuted for abuse.

It won him praise from a judge - but also raised difficult ethical issues.

His research into a new type of ventilator to help the breathing of premature babies also divided people.

An independent inquiry was held after parents claimed they hadn't consented to the research.

Those claims were later dismissed. Some parents also blamed brain damage to their children on the experimental treatment, but a follow up of the study group showed no evidence of a poorer outcome.

Leading paediatricians commented at the time "Southall and colleagues were not mavericks, but careful and dedicated researchers."

The decision by the General Medical Council will not end the inquiries into Dr Southall's practises.

Lawyers acting for the Attorney General are currently examining the 4,449 special case files at the centre of the GMC hearing.

Concerns have been raised that in cases where there have been criminal proceedings these files would not have been known about.

'Why was my file kept secret?'
04 Dec 07 |  Health

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