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Many colleagues, patients, and friends of James Wisheart, Janardin Dhasmana, and John Roylance will have been deeply shocked by the unjust way in which the three men have been treated. Every sympathy is due to those who have lost loved ones. However, whereas doctors will readily understand the aggressive grief that some parents have shown, theft anger should surely be reserved for the news media (and their informants) that have misdirected this grief against the Bristol surgeons using a sustained stream of biased, misleading, and often inaccurate information. And the defendants' explanations remained almost entirely unreported after they presented their case.
Finding the charges proved
In June 1998 the professional conduct committee of the General Medical Council announced that it had found the charges proved. But what charges? Few appreciate that many of the original charges against the surgeons, including those of clinical and technical incompetence, had either been quietly dropped or were found not proved. The disputed charges that remained were diminished in substance, some to the point of being tenuous or capable of being levied at any practising doctor.
The legal assessor to the committee advised it to be sure that the facts were true, that no other registered medical practitioner observing proper standards current at the time would have acted similarly, and that any falling short from proper standards had been serious. It was emphasised that the word serious applied to the falling short and not to any consequences such as death or brain damage.
Why then did the professional conduct committee under the chairmanship of the president of the …