From the Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2011
A doctor's career was nearly destroyed after a scientist falsely described her as a ‘deluded, pill-peddling quack' on an online forum, a hearing was told.
Stuart Jones wrote on the Bad Science website that Dr Sarah Myhill, who specialises in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, “lulled patients into a dangerous world of make-believe pseudo-science”.
Mr Jones's comments, related to advice on Dr Myhill's website together with a complaint he made to the General medical Council, caused an investigation that resulted in her being suspended.
The messages were “defamatory, derogatory and disparaging” and had a detrimental effect on Dr Myhill's professional and personal life, the Health Professions Council heard.
Bad Science's forum was flooded with 10,000 posts responding to Mr Jones's initial message in April 2010, it was said. Bad Science is run buy Ben Goldacre, a Guardian columnist.
Dr Myhill, based in Poways, wales, told the hearing how one patient with chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME, killed himself because he mistakenly believed she was no longer able to treat him.
The doctor, whose medical licence has since been restored, said: “Treatment for ME is divided into two camps, psychological and physical. My ways are very simple, including lifestyle changes, many things patients can do themselves.”
Giving evidence, Mr Jones said he deeply regretted any offence caused by his comments. He admits making disparaging comments on Bad Science but denies misconduct or that his fitness to practise is impaired.
The hearing continues.
The full decision of the disciplinary panel can be read HERE. The panel decided to issue a two-year Caution Order which will be added to Stuart Jones's registration papers:
At the end of a lengthy written adjudication, the panel concluded:
It has considered the question of which sanction to impose in ascending order of severity. It notes that where a Panel has determined that fitness to practise is impaired, it is not obliged to impose a sanction.
It first considered to take no further action, but decided against this course having regard to the seriousness of misconduct set out above. To dispose of this case by taking no further action would neither reflect the seriousness of misconduct found nor address the public interest considerations referred to above. This misconduct cannot, in the Panels judgement, be categorised as minor.
Having decided that to take no further action would not be appropriate in this case, it next considered the imposition of a Caution Order. In that regard it considered all the criteria set out in the above mentioned indicative sanctions guidance. It notes that this case does not involve any issues in relation to the Registrant’s clinical competence and further notes that the misconduct did not cause any patient harm. The Registrant has apologised for his misconduct, now realises that his actions fell below the standards expected of a registered professional and has shown genuine remorse. Further, it is the Panel’s judgement that the majority of his posts on the Bad Science Forum were not inappropriate and that there is a low risk of reoccurrence of his misconduct.
The Panel has decided to make a Caution Order. It notes that 3 years should be regarded as the bench mark for such an Order but has decided to decrease that period to two years to reflect the mitigation present in this case, set out above.