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Unelected and out of control

MagazineOctober 2001 (Vol. 12 Issue 7)Unelected and out of control

And so the witchhunt continues

And so the witchhunt continues. Last month, as we detailed in Second Opinion, the General Medical Council banned Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield, the Surrey based doctor whose crime was to successfully treat thyroid patients with a natural alternative to

Mansfield, you may know, is a general practitioner with a penchant for natural preventive medicine. In the past, Mansfield has taken a strong stand against fluoride and spoken out about the problems of automatic mass vaccination. He is a devoted doctor who runs an organization called

Good Healthkeeping.

Mansfield's crime, it seems, was responding to some 700 parents in Worcester, who banded together to request that their children be given single vaccines, rather than the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) triple jab. They set up a company called Desumo, which was to provide single vaccines and money for research into the field. Mansfield agreed to provide twice monthly clinics in Worcester, plus Saturdays at his office in Louth, Lincolnshire, to administer the vaccines.

A professor named Brian McCloskey, who got wind of what Mansfield was up to, complained to the General Medical Council (GMC), and their Interim Orders Committee is set to examine his conduct to determine if, as Professor McCloskey puts it, Dr Mansfield is putting children at risk because his actions are "outside normal clinical practice" and against the advice of the Department of Health.

The GMC are used to doctors collapsing in a heap when they rattle their sabre. In Mansfield, they've gone after the wrong opponent. Mansfield has faced them squarely, flared his nostrils and charged. Rather than hiding from the media, he is using it to his advantage. He is granting interviews everywhere, and is using them as a forum to talk about freedom of choice and the right of adults to make responsible decisions about their own children. He's adding to the already mountainous bad press about the MMR triple jab. He has taken the moral high ground and he has grabbed it with both clenched fists.

With the MMR jab, the GMC has picked the wrong issue. This is a problem that is not going to go away. Parents are rightly concerned about this vaccine and won't be assuaged by weak studies hauled out by the DoH in support of its position.

If Mansfield gets struck off, it is likely there will be an unholy riot. Parents will realise that this is the first step toward mandatory vaccination.

But there's a bigger issue at stake than just parental right of choice over vaccination. The key concern here is the use of the term "outside normal clinical practice". That is more or less the charge maintained against Dr Durrant-Peatfield, the thyroid specialist. If the GMC is allowed to prevail in that case and that of Peter Mansfield, it means that this small body of orthodox doctors will have sweeping powers to determine the kind of medicine that you and I are allowed to have access to. It means that not even a slight deviation from the orthodoxy will be permitted. It means that you won't be taking control of your health. The GMC will be.

Most fundamentally, it means that decisions on what constitutes "normal clinical practice" will be determined by what is commercially best for drug companies and the government. The MMR issue isn't about normal clinical practice and God knows it's not about what's best for our children. It's about commerce, and a government and drugs industry worried about the lawsuits that would be generated if it ever recalled this vaccine.

It's more vital than ever that the council for the regulation of healthcare professionals which will have the right to overturn any decision of the GMC be staffed by a broad range of patients. Only then will we be able to keep in check the GMC unelected, unaccountable and, at the moment, out of control.

Lynne McTaggart


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