An Open Letter
To Whom It May Concern
We are writing to you as parents of the children who, because of their symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and associated autism, were seen at the Royal Free Hospital Paediatric Gastroenterology Unit by Professor Walker-Smith and Dr. Simon Murch with the involvement of Dr Andrew Wakefield on the research side of their investigations. Our children became the subjects of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998.
We know these three doctors are being investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) on the basis of allegations made to them by a freelance reporter. Among the many allegations made are the suggestions that the doctors acted inappropriately regarding our children, that Dr. Wakefield ‘solicited them for research purposes’ and that our children had not been referred in the usual way by their own GPs. It is also claimed that our children were given unnecessary and invasive investigations for the purpose of research, and not in their interest.
We know this was not so. All of our children were referred to Professor Walker-Smith in the proper way in order that their severe, long-standing and distressing gastroenterological symptoms could be fully investigated and treated by the foremost paediatric gastroenterologists in the UK. Many of us had been to several other doctors in our quest to get help for our children but not until we saw Professor Walker-Smith and his colleagues were full investigations undertaken.
We were all treated with utmost professionalism and respect by all three of these doctors. Throughout our children’s care at the Royal Free Hospital we were kept fully informed about the investigations recommended and the treatment plans which evolved. All of the investigations were carried out without distress to our children, many of whom made great improvements on treatment so that for the first time in years they were finally pain free.
We have been following the GMC hearings with distress as we, the parents, have had no opportunity to refute these allegations. For the most part we have been excluded from giving evidence to support these doctors whom we all hold in very high regard. It is for this reason we are writing to the GMC and to all concerned to be absolutely clear that the complaint that is being brought against these three caring and compassionate physicians does not in any way reflect our perception of the treatment offered to our sick children at the Royal Free. We are appalled that these doctors have been the subject of this protracted enquiry in the absence of any complaint from any parent about any of the children who were reported in the Lancet paper.
I. T. Thomas