What is disturbing is that many paediatricians and other doctors support Southall. They claim that he is being hounded by a determined campaign to deny the existence of child abuse. This is nonsense. The country is obsessed with child abuse. So far from denying it, we all suspect it or are encouraged to suspect it everywhere.
What she says about ‘obsession with child abuse’ may be true, but only to a point: there is an obsession with the figure of the paedophile in our midst – the feared outsider who shatters the innocence of the child and the family idyll. However, the most common perpetrators of child abuse are parents and other close family relatives, and this is largely denied. In many situations, the idea that a parent, or parents, might be responsible for abusing their children is frequently denounced as horrifying. To be permitted to entertain such an idea, one must first of all attribute some degree of guilt to the child. One need not think too hard to come up with a germane example.
One of the paediatricians whose support Minette Marrin found ‘disturbing’ wrote a comment piece on Southall for the Observer:
This present case that has led to his erasure from the medical register concerned a woman whose 10-year-old son had been found dead in the family home from hanging. Her other eight-year-old son was subsequently taken into care because he was allegedly expressing threats to kill himself.
Because of concerns about the possibility of an abusive cause for the first child’s death, Dr Southall was instructed by the family court and social services to interview the mother and explore these issues. This he did in the presence of a senior social worker who took a written account of the whole interview. The mother claimed – and the GMC chose to believe her – that Dr Southall had accused of murdering her son: Dr Southall denied that he had said this or that he had interviewed the mother in an aggressive and intimidating manner and his statements on this were completely supported by the social worker who had been present throughout the interview.
Whilst Marrin exults in the fact that Southall was struck off the register for what she calls ‘monstrous déformation professionelle’, one is still left with the question of what factors could bring a ten year old child to hang himself.