Page 3, 6th November 1981

6th November 1981
Page 3
Page 3, 6th November 1981 — Life accused of damaging public trust in medicine

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Life accused of damaging public trust in medicine

THE LIFE organisation was accused last week by the president of the Royal College of Physicians of attempting to destroy confidence in the medical profession.

Sir Douglas Black. who is also consultant editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, said that pressure groups such as Life and Exit were trying to apply simplistic, rigid rules in situations which did not admit the proper application of such rules.

He was giving evidence at the trial at Leicester Crown Court of Dr Leonard Arthur, aged 55, the consultant paediatrician charged with attempting to murder a three-day-old Down's syndrome baby whose parents had rejected it.

Sir Douglas said that he was not ctiticising the motivation of the groups. The chairman of Life reported Dr Arthur to the police and his prosecution followed.

Earlier in the trial. after two days of legal submissions by the defence and prosecution in the absence of the jury. a charge against Dr Arthur of murdering the baby, John Pearson. who was born at Derby City Hospital on June 28 last year, was withdrawn on the judge's discretion. The prosecution has alleged that the baby died after Dr Arthur had prescribed the drug dihydrocodeine (DEI I 8). Professor Alan Usher, the pathologist who carried out the post mortem examination on the baby. told the court that in his opinion the administering of the drug was the greatest single factor in causing the baby's death.

After slides were shown indicating that the baby had brain and lung damage at birth, Professor Usher agreed with Mr George Carman. QC, for the defence, that for the preceding seven days of the trial the prosecution's evidence had been "inaccurate and misleadingin presenting a case that the baby was healthy when born.

Professor Alexander Campbell, head of the department of child health at Aberdeen University, called by Mr Carman, said that the course of action prescribed by Dr Arthur was coinsistent with his own practice and he believed his own practice "to be within the accepted spectrum of paediatric thought."

Mr Carman said that the birth had been a tragedy for the parents. After seeing them Dr Arthur had made the note: "Parents do not wish baby to survive." Dr Arthur had prescribed non-treatment and a drug for one purpose only — to alleviate stirfering.

Dr Peter Dunn, consultant in perinantal medicine to Avon Health Authorty, reader in child health at Bristol Universithy and the author of 200 papers on paediatric medicinal also spoke in Dr Arthur's defence. He said that Dr Arthur's response to the situation fell within the accepted and respected paediatric point of view.

Dr Dunn said: "Sometimes people accuse doctors of acting as God but I remember Francis Bacon said that the only person who does not have to make decisions is God and His angels. A doctor has to come to a solution in this dilemma." He said that he did not think that the child was put on a regime by Dr Arthur where there was no possibility of its emerging alive.

Earlier, an article by Sir John

Junta-, editor of the Sunday Express. dealing with the case, was referred to the AttorneyGeneral after being severely criticised by the judge.

The trial continues.

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