GMC guidance sets out child protection responsibilities of doctors

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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The General Medical Council is offering new guidance to doctors on reporting abuse following fears about complaints being brought, if the reports turn out to be groundless.

The Guidance being issued to some 230,000 doctors makes it clear that those who act on honestly held fears about a child's welfare and who follow the correct procedures will receive the regulator's support even if parents lodge a complaint.

This kind of guidance is to be welcomed, but it does not protect a doctor from a civil claim brought by parents or children wrongly diagnosed.

In the case of AD and OH v United Kingdom [2010] ECHR 340, the Applicants were mother and child. OH suffered from a rare condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease and was taken into care after being misdiagnosed with signs of abuse. The care order was finally discharged in July 1998. AD claimed that she had suffered psychological shock and upset. Both alleged violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and they brought their complaint before the European Court, having had their claims turned down by the courts in England and Wales.

The European Court of Human Rights held whilst there were relevant and sufficient reasons for the authorities to take protective measures, the subsequent failings of the local authority both extended and exacerbated the interference with the Applicants right to respect for their family and were not proportionate to the legitimate aim of protecting OD from harm.

Consequently there was a violation of Article 8 in respect of the interference with the Applicants right to respect for their family life. It would therefore award Euro 15,000 jointly to the Applicants in relation to the violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

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Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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