Stoke Sentinel, February 5, 2002


By David Blackhurst
Health Reporter

STAFFORDSHIRE Police confirmed today they are taking further legal advice on claims that parents' signatures were forged so their babies could be used in controversial medical research.

For the past two years, detectives have held statements from six sets of parents making the allegations over the CNEP baby tank experiments led by Professor David Southall 10 years ago.

Officers had said they were awaiting the outcome by a disciplinary investigation by the General Medical Council before deciding how to proceed.

But this week, the GMC decided there was no case of professional misconduct for Professor Southall and four other paediatricians at the North Staffordshire Hospital to answer and threw out the complaints.

Last year the police has already passed the issue over to the force's barrister for an opinion.

Today a spokesman said: "We note the position of the GMC and are seeking clarification from them."

"We are also consulting with counsel regarding legal issues."

Higher numbers of the 122 babies undergoing CNEP negative pressure treatment died or were brain damaged than infants using conventional ventilators.

The doctors said the difference was statistically insignificant but that has been disputed by some parents.

A number of parents told police either they did not sign consent forms, signed only after being given false information or had their signatures forged.

But in its report on this week's ruling, the GMC said: "we carefully considered the allegations and concluded they did not raise an issue of serious professional misconduct.

"The committee noted that three reports had already been undertaken on the question of informed consent on the CNEP trial.

"These has established that consent forms were signed for all but one of the babies involved.

"The committee also noted that the events took place when practice on consent was less rigorous than it is today."

Lead complainant Debbie Henshall of Clayton claims CNEP was linked to the death of one of her babies and brain damage in another.

She is now considering whether to legally challenge the GMC decision, arguing she had not received a full and fair hearing.

The GMC has decided however there is a case to of alleged professional misconduct for Professor Southall to answer on claims about his child protection work.

This follows complaints by parents claiming he falsely accused them of child abuse.

It is understood three charges against him will proceed to the GMC's professional misconduct committee which has powers to strike off doctors. All the counts are said to involve cases from
outside North Staffordshire.

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