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David Southall

Professor David Southall is a UK paediatrician who is regarded by some as a leading expert in Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII, also known as "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy"),[1] and who has performed significant research into sudden infant death syndrome.[2]

Southall was struck off the medical register on 4 December 2007, after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council.[3]

In his early career, Southall spent four years in general adult medicine, one year in obstetrics and two years as a general practitioner.[4]

Between 1986 and 1994, Southall led a pilot research project into FII involving video surveillance of young hospital patients in an effort to observe their carers (such as parents or guardians) harming them.[2] The project, which was conducted at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary in Stoke-on-Trent, observed carers using methods such as suffocation and poisoning to harm the children.[2] As a result of the project, thirty-three parents or step-parents who had harmed their children were prosecuted, and twenty-three were diagnosed with FII.[2]

The project attracted controversy for its methods and for the ethical implications of the research. Critics argued that the desire of the researchers to observe the carers harming the children exposed the children to further abuse, that the betrayal of doctor-patient trust necessarily involved in the surveillance could cause harm to the subjects, and that "a diagnosis should lead to treatment, not punishment".[5] However, the researchers argued that the surveillance saved the lives of many of the children involved, and Southall himself said that "[b]y doing covert video surveillance we are betraying the trust of parents... [b]ut if a parent has been abusing his or her child in this way then the trust between child and parent has already gone."[5]

In the early 1990s, Southall led a study which pioneered continuous negative extrathoracic pressure therapy, a treatment for breathing difficulties in young children involving the application of pressure to the patients' chests.[6] The study was controversial, with some parents of the children involved suggesting that the treatment was linked to subsequent death or brain injury.[6] The research was the subject of investigations by the hospital involved and inquiries from police. An independent follow-up study concluded in 2006 that there was "no evidence of disadvantage, in terms of long-term disability or psychological outcomes" from the use of the technique.[6]

In 1993, during the Bosnian War, Southall traveled to Sarajevo as a participant in a medical evacuation programme for sick children from the area.[4] Prompted by his experiences there of what he described as "trauma inflicted on children and their families, not only by warring factions, but also by the indolence of the international community", Southall established Child Advocacy International on his return, to advocate for international child health issues.[4]

In 2004, Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council (GMC), after alleging to police that the husband of Sally Clark was responsible for murdering the couple's children.[7] Southall made the claim to child protection officers of the Staffordshire police after watching a television documentary about the case.[1] The GMC banned Southall from child protection work for three years; the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence challenged the decision as insufficient and argued that he should be deregistered, but a High Court of Justice decision in 2005 held that the sanction was not unduly lenient.[8]

In February 2007, Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith announced that a review would be held into a number of criminal cases in which Southall gave evidence for the prosecution, following allegations that Southall kept up to 4,450 personal case files on children patients which were kept separate from the official hospital records.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Murder theory doctor resumes job", BBC, 2004-06-16. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Profile: Professor David Southall", BBC, 2005-04-14. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. 
  3. ^ David Southall struck off by GMC. BBC (2007-12-04). Retrieved on 4 December 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Abbasi, Kamran (1998-03-28). "The children's advocate". British Medical Journal 316 (7136): 960. Retrieved on 2007-11-27.
  5. ^ a b Brahams, Diana (1993-10-16). "Video surveillance and child abuse". Lancet 342 (8877): 944-947. Retrieved on 2007-11-27.
  6. ^ a b c "Baby breathing aid study cleared", BBC, 2006-03-31. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. 
  7. ^ Carter, Helen. "Paediatrician faces new misconduct allegations", Guardian Unlimited, 2006-11-13. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. 
  8. ^ "Southall avoids being struck off", BBC, 2005-04-14. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "David_Southall". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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