Roy Meadow should not be found guilty of serious professional misconduct


EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday July 1, 2005. In North America the embargo lifts at 6:30pm ET Thursday June 30, 2005.

Facts and fairness demand that Professor Roy Meadow should not be found guilty of serious professional misconduct, states a comment in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, outlines why Meadow should be cleared of misconduct and that legal not medical error took place during the trial of Sally Clark. He states that the case against Meadow is not only unjust but threatens the effective delivery of child protection services in Britain. Horton argues that the General Medical Council (GMC) is not the place to arbitrate the complex aspects of medicine's intersection with the law. Meadow's referral to the GMC should never have taken place, he states. He calls on the government to urgently create a Royal Commission to investigate and make recommendations concerning the use of experts by the courts.

Horton comments: "On the available evidence presented at the original trial and at two subsequent appeals, it is clear that Meadow should not be found guilty of serious professional misconduct…Instead of concentrating on the actions of one individual, who inevitably becomes a public symbol - and scapegoat - for the weaknesses of an entire system, a broader approach to learning lessons from the unsafe convictions arrived at in Sally Clark's case is needed. The activities of the police, pathologists, lawyers, judges, expert witnesses, and juries need to be considered all together.

"The causes of death of Sally Clark's two sons remain unascertained. The GMC cannot be the place to arbitrate on such complex and contingent aspects of medicine's intersection with the law. Instead, the fair and appropriate way forward is to find ways to improve a judicial system where facts are gathered and presented, opinions are sought and tested, and judgments are arrived at. That process might best be achieved by the kind of rigorous investigation offered through the work of a Royal Commission. Irrespective of the outcome, the government should announce the creation of such a Commission immediately after the conclusion of the GMC's latest deliberations. That may be the only way to secure and strengthen child protection services in the UK - services whose effectiveness currently hangs in the balance."

This week's World Report focuses on the Roy Meadow case and its wider implications.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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