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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 16:44 GMT
'Why was my file kept secret?'
By Alison Holt
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

Lawrence Alexander
Lawrence was shocked by the allegations against his parents

Lawrence Alexander leafs through a file that details his ill health as a baby and the struggles his parents have faced.

Alongside original medical documents are a newspaper cutting on his family and bizarrely, a photocopy of a Christmas card.

This is a special case file started by the controversial paediatrician Dr David Southall 20 years ago, but which Lawrence only discovered existed in the last few years.

He said: "I was extremely shocked. There is all this crucial information about me as a baby - what is it doing in a file where my doctors couldn't get at it?"

Lawrence, 20, is one of the five cases at the heart of the allegations against Dr David Southall.

It is claimed the doctor kept nearly 4,500 special case files on patients he had seen.

These files contained some original medical documents which should have been in the medical records of individual patients.

In Lawrence's case the file was held at a hospital where he had never been treated, Dr Southall took it there when he changed jobs.

The General Medical Council has concluded that was an abuse of his professional position.

Lawyers for the Attorney General are currently examining all of the files.

There are concerns that in cases where there have been criminal proceedings the documents in the files may not have been known about.

Lawrence first came under Dr Southall's care at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London in 1987.

Accusation of harm

His parents Janet and Robin Alexander were worried by episodes when he stopped breathing.

He was closely monitored at the hospital, but Dr Southall then accused his parents of trying to harm him.

Lawrence Alexander and his mother Janet.
The file made disturbing reading for Lawrence

The paediatrician started care proceedings against the couple and they had to go to the High Court where they were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Despite winning that legal battle the stigma of the allegations of abusing their own child has followed them through the years.

The couple have lost jobs and had neighbours and family turn against them.

When Lawrence eventually discovered what his parents had been accused of he was shocked.

"It is the worst thing that you can say about somebody, that they would harm a child," he said.

"I greeted this with a mixture of disgust and surprise. My parents were perfect parents - they didn't even smack me."

And contained within the special case files is information which he believes explains what was really wrong with him.

Allergy

As a baby he had gastric oesophageal reflux - a condition which in some cases can cause breathing difficulties.

He says in his case it was linked to an allergy.

"They knew what was actually wrong with me yet they wrote all this child abuse stuff, rather than actually confront what was really going on with me."

Now as an adult Lawrence is still struggling with ill health.

For the past six years he has had ME which leaves him weak and unable to do much.

He also believes that one document in the special file, an MRI scan report, may show signs of a genetic heart condition.

That is now being checked out.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Background on Dr David Southall



SEE ALSO
Profile: Dr David Southall
04 Dec 07 |  Health



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