Distinguished career could end in ignominy

Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the expert medical witness in the Angela Cannings case, is under investigation by the General Medical Council. His confident, charismatic performance in the witness box in a series of cot death cases is under scrutiny.

His distinguished career as consultant, professor of paediatrics and as the first president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health before retiring five years ago, could end in ignominy.

Sir Roy, 70, who lives in Yorkshire with his second wife, Marianne has let it be known that he is prevented from answering his criticswhile the investigation is under way. It is left to others to explain why he believed that Angela Cannings and many othermothers had murdered their children.

Three decades ago, the then Dr Meadow saw a six-year-old girl called Kay who had been referred to Seacroft hospital in Leeds with foul smelling, bloody urine. She had been admitted to hospital 12 times, had six examinations been treated with eight antibiotics, vaginal pessaries and other creams. Sixteen consultants were involved in her care but only one, Dr Meadow, realised what was wrong. It was not Kay who was ill but her mother.

It ran counter to all perceived wisdom to suggest that a loving mother might be prolonging her child's agony by subjecting her to repeated medical investigations. But forensic laboratory staff were able to confirm that the mother had been mixing her own urine, contaminated with menstrual blood, with her daughter's. Sir Roy described Kay's case in a paper in The Lancet in 1977. She became the first patient in the world to be diagnosed with Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, the condition in which parents, usually mothers, fabricate illness in their children as a way of gaining attention.

Sir Roy had, from the start of his career, shown an interest unusual among his colleagues in the social aspects of medicine. "He was interested in all aspects of child care and health and in that sense he was ahead of his time. He was genial, personable and a good listener," said Harvey Marcovitch, former consultant paediatrician at Banbury hospital, Oxfordshire.

In the mid-1990s Sir Roy was elected president of the Royal College of Paediatrics. His standing in the profession was high. He was not regarded as a maverick but as a thoughtful, sensitive physician. But, in the past few years, as the cases in which he was involved have collapsed, his reputation has started to crumble.

The case against him rests on his alleged misuse of statistics. The infamous "Meadow's law" that one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder and his suggestion that the chances of three deaths happening in one family was one in 73 million are now discredited.

His supporters dispute that judgement. A professor of paediatrics at a teaching hospital said Sir Roy had never intended "Meadow's law" - which was first cited by a US paediatrician - to be used as a rule of thumb. "That is where he has been traduced," he said. On the one in 73 million statistic, friends say it was accurate as applied to a randomly-selected woman who had never had a cot death but inaccurate when one or more cot deaths had already occurred.

Friends claim Sir Roy was expecting to be questioned on the figure so that he could elucidate it but the questions never came. In 2000, he wrote a defence of his evidence in the Sally Clark case after her first appeal failed.

Dr Marcovitch said Sir Roy's contribution to child health was undoubted. "There are a large number of children alive today who would not have been but for him." But the Attorney General is now considering reviewing all the cases which could have been affected by Sir Roy's lack of self-doubt.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Year 2 Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

    Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Year 3 Teachers needed for supply roles

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week