Roy Meadow

British paediatrician / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sir Samuel Roy Meadow (born 9 June 1933)[1] is a British retired paediatrician infamous for facilitating several wrongful convictions of mothers for murdering their babies. He was awarded the Donald Paterson prize of the British Paediatric Association in 1968 for a study of the effects on parents of having a child in hospital. In 1977, he published an academic paper describing a phenomenon dubbed Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP). In 1980 he was awarded a professorial chair in paediatrics at St James's University Hospital, Leeds, and in 1998, he was knighted for services to child health.[2]

His work became controversial, particularly arising from the consequences of a belief he stated in a book, ABC of Child Abuse, that, in a single family, "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, until proved otherwise".[3] This became known as "Meadow's Law" and was influential in the thinking of UK social workers and child protection agencies, such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.[4]

Meadow's reputation was severely damaged after his appearances as an expert witness for the prosecution in several trials played a crucial part in wrongful convictions for murder. Despite having fundamental misunderstandings of statistics he presented himself as an expert in the field. The British General Medical Council (GMC) struck him from the British Medical Register after he was found to have offered erroneous and misleading evidence in the 1999 trial of Sally Clark, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of her two baby sons.[5][6] Clark's conviction was overturned in 2003 but she never recovered from the experience, and died in 2007 from acute alcohol poisoning.[7]

Clark's father, Frank Lockyer, complained to the GMC, alleging serious professional misconduct on the part of Meadow. The GMC concluded in July 2005 that Meadow was guilty, but he appealed to the High Court, which in February 2006 ruled in his favour. The GMC appealed to the Court of Appeal, but in October 2006, by a majority decision, the court upheld the ruling that Meadow was not guilty of the GMC's charge.[8] The reason was that his behaviour in court did not impact his care for his own patients.