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Doctors cleared over baby trials

The General Medical Council has cleared controversial paediatrician David Southall of serious professional misconduct in a case surrounding breathing experiments on premature babies.

The GMC’s Fitness to Practise panel, sitting in Manchester, concluded that Dr Southall had no case to answer, and also exonerated two other doctors in relation to the so-called CNEP breathing tank trials conducted at North Staffordshire Hospital in the early 1990s.

The research involved placing premature babies into low pressure incubators so they could breathe unaided, but Dr Southall, Dr Andrew Spencer and Dr Martin Samuels were accused of failing to ensure appropriate procedures were in place to obtain informed parental consent for participation in the trial.

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Legal representatives for the three doctors successfully argued for the case to be dismissed before they were due to give evidence. Dr Southall was not present to hear the decision as he is working on an international development project in The Gambia.

Stoke couple Carl and Deborah Henshall had campaigned for the GMC hearing, saying they did not give properly informed consent for their two baby daughters, Stacey and Sofie, to be placed into CNEP tanks in 1992. Stacey died after two days, while Sofie survived but was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

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