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August 30, 2006 permalink
In this article, mother Davina McLean was compelled to consent to a dangerous medical experiment on her child by the threat of child removal.
In just the past week's articles, we have cases of the threat of child removal being used to force a divorce, a medical experiment and an involuntary sex act. Legislators dream powers given to child protectors help children. In fact, those powers harm parents and children. Parents will not be able to protect their children, and themselves, until effective protection from child removal replaces the current sham.
Professor in police inquiry over brain damage to boy
Sandra Laville, Monday August 28, 2006, Guardian
Detectives have stepped up an investigation into claims that the leading paediatrician David Southall left a child brain damaged as a result of a controversial breathing experiment 15 years ago, the Guardian has learned.
South Wales police have broadened their inquiry into an allegation that Professor Southall assaulted the boy by carrying out the test and are asking dozens of parents whose children may have come into contact with the paediatrician over the years to come forward if their child suffered any injuries as a result of his treatment. Professor Southall has denied that his treatment has harmed any child.
In a letter to parents last week, Detective Inspector Chris Mullane, of the force's child protection unit, said further inquiries could be opened as a result of the responses from parents. The letter says police are investigating an allegation of assault on a boy that may have occurred while he was undergoing treatment by Prof Southall at the University Hospital of Wales. It asks parents: "Has your child been treated directly or indirectly by Professor Southall ... Did your child suffer any injuries or adverse effects from that treatment ... Have you reported this matter to the police or any other body?"
The investigation began after the parents of Ben McLean alleged that he had been left brain damaged by Prof Southall's experiments at the University Hospital of Wales in 1991.
The child's mother, Davina McLean, believes that without their informed consent, her five-year-old son was given carbon dioxide to breathe and his airway was occluded during a sleep study. She claims that she and her husband were forced to take part in the study after Prof Southall said they were suffering from Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, and warned that unless they allowed Ben to take part he would be taken into care. Prof Southall has also denied these claims.
When Ben left hospital he was placed in foster care, but a year later a court found the McLeans had not harmed their child. Ben, now 20, lives with his parents and has severe speech and learning difficulties. Mrs McLean told the Guardian: "We are pleased that other parents out there who may have concerns are being contacted. All we want is justice for our son."
Prof Southall has attracted praise and controversy during his long career. Last year he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and banned from child protection work for three years after wrongly accusing the husband of Sally Clark of killing their baby sons.
Other parents have made allegations against Prof Southall, who is one of the leading proponents of the diagnosis of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, in which a parent or carer is said to harm a child to attract attention. He is due to face another disciplinary hearing before the General Medical Council later this year.
Many of Prof Southall's peers defend his work, and say a witchhunt is being carried out against him. They say paediatricians involved in child protection are being subjected to a campaign by groups defending parents accused of abuse.
Margaret Taylor, Prof Southall's solicitor, said he was not commenting on the police inquiry or on other aspects of Mrs McLean's allegations.