Scottish Court of Session turns down judicial review of a decision of the General Medical Council. 

Background

The claim was made by the parent of X.  X, was born in January 2016 and has had a complex medical history. From the age of 3 months, her symptoms included abnormal movements, vomiting, retching and low blood sugars. She was treated from time to time at a specialist children’s hospital (“the Hospital”), and prescribed various medications, including anti-convulsants. X developed other problems, not being able to eat by mouth and keep food down, and had a feeding tube (a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy tube or “PEG tube”) inserted in her intestine. 

On 2 February 2018, aged 2, X was readmitted to the Hospital, acutely unwell with severe dehydration, vomiting, diarrhoea and high blood sodium levels. Members of the medical team suspected that X’s illness might have been “induced”, possibly by administering an osmotically active substance through her PEG tube. On 5 February their concerns were raised with Dr C, the consultant paediatrician at the Hospital with responsibility for child protection. Over the next few weeks, X was kept in the Hospital. Unsupervised access from her mother was stopped. Her medications were stopped. X recovered. 

On 26 March 2018, Dr C co-authored a report which concluded that X’s presentation was consistent with “fabricated or induced illness”. That report led to the local authority initiating a child protection investigation, as a result of which X was taken into care, though she was eventually allowed to stay with her father . X’s parents maintained her illnesses were a side effect of unnecessary medication. 

In due course, independent expert reports were obtained, which cast doubt on Dr C’s conclusions. The safeguarding proceedings were dropped, and X was reunited with her whole family. 

Complaint to GMC

The father of X complained to the respondent, the General Medical Council, regarding Dr C’s fitness to practise. The respondent opened an investigation and obtained its own independent expert

report, following which it decided to take no further action against Dr C’s registration.

 

Following a review of the case, GMC Case Examiners decided to close the case with no further action.  A subsequent complaint to the assistant registrar resulted in a decision not to review the decision of the case examiners. 

Appeal

In brief, it was put forward that the GMC failed to take into account all the allegations when deciding to not take any further action.  It was further argued that Dr C failed to obtain the informed consent of the petitioner and his wife for various procedures and treatment while X was an inpatient at the hospital.

Judgement

Lord Harrower dismissing the petition on all grounds. 

You can read the full judgement of Petition of AB for Judicial Review of Decision of the General Medical Council [2021] Scotcs Csoh_85 (18 August 2021)

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