Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 13:23 UK

Southall bid to overturn GMC ban

David Southall
David Southall has had a controversial career

Paediatrician David Southall has begun an attempt to overturn a General Medical Council (GMC) decision to strike him off the medical register.

Dr Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct - for the second time - in December 2007.

The GMC ruled that he had abused his position by accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her 10-year-old son.

A GMC panel said Dr Southall had a "deep-seated attitudinal problem".

It found that his actions had added to Mrs M's distress following the death of her son, who hanged himself in 1996.

Dr Southall made the claim in an interview with Mrs M about the safety of her surviving son.

He had been instructed by a county council to provide an independent expert report to the court.

His legal challenge against the GMC decision is taking place at the High Court in London.

Stephen Miller QC, appearing for Dr Southall, said the paediatrician was concerned that the GMC disciplinary panel "did not really understand" what child protection work involved, or the part played by doctors such as himself.

Mr Miller said there were grounds for believing that the panel did not follow legal advice, and had put the burden on Dr Southall to show the allegations against him were untrue, rather than on having to prove the case against him.

The QC argued the panel was wrong to find that Dr Southall had accused Mrs M of murdering her child, or that he questioned her in an accusatorial or intimidating manner.

It had also failed to give any or adequate weight to inconsistencies in Mrs M's evidence, and failed to give proper weight to evidence from witnesses, including social workers.

Previous controversy

In 2004, Dr Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and suspended from child protection work over his role in the case of Sally Clark, wrongly jailed over the death of her two sons.

Dr Southall accused Mrs Clark's husband Steve of murdering the two boys on the basis of a television interview.

At the time he was banned from child protection work for three years, a ban which ran out last year.

Dr Southall 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 1980s and early 1990s, which led to a number of parents and step parents being prosecuted for abuse.

Dr Southall faced another GMC hearing into work that he carried out in the early 1990s, testing a new type of ventilator for premature babies. Accusations that he failed to gain proper consent for the work were dismissed.

Dr Southall worked as a consultant paediatrician at London's Royal Brompton Hospital from 1982 before moving to the same post at the North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent in 1992.

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