Bulimia article doctors cleared

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Three doctors were yesterday found guilty of identifying a bulimia sufferer with a history of self-mutilation in a medical journal. But they were found not guilty of serious professional misconduct after deliberations lasting more than two hours at the General Medical Council in London.

Dr John Eagles of Binghill Park, Milltimber, Aberdeen, and Dr Jon Parkin, whose address was given as the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen, had been accused of disclosing information in the paper about the condition of a patient, identified to the hearing as Ms C, without her informed consent and in such a way as to enable her to be identified.

Dr Alastair Palin, now of Noel Road, Islington, north London, was accused of providing information for the paper without obtaining Ms C's informed consent and in such a way as to enable her to be identified. He had been Ms C's psychiatrist.

Adrian Whitfield QC, representing Dr Eagles and Dr Parkin, the authors of the paper about 26-year-old Ms C, had told the hearing the article was not gratuitous or unreasonable and was an important contribution to an important topic.

Mr Whitfield argued that doctors doing research, especially in the field of psychiatry, faced inevitable dilemmas about how much detail of individual cases to give.

Simon Taylor, representing Dr Palin, said the committee had heard different versions of the meeting between his client and Ms C, where she is said to have consented to be interviewed by Dr Parkin for the suggested paper Blood-letting in Bulimia Nervosa.

He asked the committee to accept evidence from Ms C's key worker at the time, Mrs Sally Hill, that Ms C had consented and was capable of doing so.

The doctors declined to comment on the outcome, but said: "We are naturally relieved that the GMC has found on the evidence none of us were guilty of misconduct and our duty of confidentiality remains. All we wish to say is that we regret any distress which has been caused to the complainant in this case."