Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blog Banter

Some time ago I blogged about Sally Clark, upon the event of her death, and was rounded on by CoralPoetry who later removed her comments. Another who received similar treatment contacted me recently, and it is my fault that I responded I guess, but sometimes it is hard to let a comment go by and especially if someone is assuming I agree with them.

For the record, I would maintain that I don't know what happened to Sally Clark's children, but it was a sad case whatever happened, and I veer towards her innocence. I think the evidence given in court was entirely misleading, and that it is right and proper that the GMC made a decision about Roy Meadow's practice, I think I can trust that they made their decision a long way from the tabloid agenda. I also think that far too much weight is given to medical evidence in courts generally, but I would say that because I am a social worker!
I find this correspondents views unpalatable, but they are his, and I publish them because I no longer wish to deal with them in a private arena via email. I have removed his email address because it didn't seem appropriate to leave it in, but do leave your comments here, though I am guessing we might want to steer clear of the abortion debate?

Subject: Sally Clark
Date: 25/05/2007 10:00:53 GMT Standard Time

Dear Helen, I'm a 'predatory pervert' who has 'just crawled out of my cave' where I 'lure children to my site' so don't dismiss me out of hand. These are some of the spewed out epithets one receives should one have the effrontery to counter the prevailing all consuming, almost religious fervour, that holds that Sally Clark was innocent of the murder of two of her children. The pieties of this narcissistic cult demand a flagrant disregard for truth, the manipulation of words to invert their meaning and the wilful and disgraceful vilification of good men. Egregious journalists like the ranting Sweeney publish lie after lie so that their copy and that of lazy others reads identically and predictably. "Convicted because of Meadow's evidence". Not so. "Released because of Meadow's evidence". Not so.

Meadow's 73 million to one figures. Not his. "real risk of two cot deaths is 1 in 64". Preposterous medical illiteracy. "Harry died of septicaemia". Clinically absurd. And the latest in the Spectator, “Vaccines killed Clark children" (presumably negating the infection certainty ?).

Sorry to inflict this on you if it no longer interests you but having shared the fruitless task of attempting to reason with Coralpoetry who flits from blog to blog at the merest hint of Sally, posting and unposting, leaving a trail of litter all over the place, I thought you might be
Best wishes, David.

Subject: Re: Sally Clark
Date: 26/05/2007 15:58:12 GMT Standard Time

I don't mind you emailing you, but we probably don't agree either, except that CoralPoetry had me entirely baffled. Her comments have been deleted from my website now, but at one point, I apparently had hijacked my own site and was someone else entirely. It was all very odd, and I guess not surprising that she didn't publish my comments to her site, even though they were very mild and simply expressed my confusion.

I disagree with you in so far as I do think Sally Clark was convicted on Roy Meadows evidence, predominantly because courts and juries can give so much weight to medical evidence. I really don't know what actually happened, although I suspect a conversation with the CPS would clarify that, and I am definitely not in the business of demonising a doctor. You appear to be much surer than I can be but I am afraid I am not really interested in being convinced either way.
Best wishes,

Subject: Re: Sally Clark
Date: 26/05/2007 22:42:51 GMT Standard Time

Dear Helen, Thank you for that. It was just that I thought you would be interested in the sort of people who career around maniacally making outrageous comments whose very implausibility suggests the hollowness of their argument. Whether you wish to know it or not the truth is always out there and I for one prefer to be connected to it however disconcerting it may be. Sally Clark’s children died terrible deaths and two innocent lives are now spent, with few willing to grieve for them for we are little concerned for our children when they inconvenience us. I shall not trouble you further.
Kind regards, David.

Subject:Re: Sally Clark
Date: 26/05/2007 23:08:17 GMT Standard Time

"for we are little concerned for our children when they inconvenience us" This is odd David; there is little of convenience about children full stop really, and I don't think anyone has stopped caring about Sally's children. Whatever happened to them is sad, whether they died at their mother's hands or not. Women who kill their children are not generally happy, balanced people, but women who are somehow suffering terribly. I do think it is terribly hard to think that we don't know the answer, but sometimes we can't, and we do have to live with uncertainties. Truth is not an absolute.

Subject:Re: Sally Clark
Date: 27/05/2007 11:18:44 GMT Standard Time

Helen, I did not express myself well and was letting emotion dictate the text. I was alluding to the destruction of babies in utero and the terrible images of partial birth terminations as examples of ‘inconvenience’ lives to be got rid of. Like you, and, ironically like Professor Meadow, we mostly agree that the killing of infants by their mother’s has to be looked at with a psychiatric eye rather than a jailer’s. There are absolute truths about man’s place in the world and we don’t necessarily understand them but their pursuit is an obligation that elevates us just as the searching for the more prosaic truths of daily life is a better guide to living than self delusion and may harm fewer people. Not to find out the truth of what happened to the Clark children has lead to the destruction of a good man’s reputation and a dearth of paediatricians willing to take on child abuse work. There will be babies and children who will have to loose their lives because of the vicious and mendacious campaign against those that defend them. I call this the “Sweeney Effect” after the ranting BBC journalist most adept at this tainted work.
Best Wishes, David.

Subject: Re: Sally Clark
Date: 27/05/2007 11:48:43 GMT Standard Time

Great that we agree that a mother who kills her children deserves compassion. Perhaps in your desire for clarity you are making an assumption about how I might feel/think about; "the destruction of babies in utero and the terrible images of partial birth terminations as examples of ‘inconvenience’ lives to be got rid of.". Are you assuming that I am anti-abortion? I am pro-choice, and I place the rights of the mother above that of the unborn child, whatever the images look like.

Cleveland was the first big case where a paediatrician's reputation was in dispute in a child abuse case. It may have blighted the career of one man's life, but we now know much more about how to detect child abuse. Sometimes one man goes and we learn more; it is sad for him, but better for humanity. I would prefer this to taking a medical opinion as fact and far too much weight is given to medical evidence in courts. Whether Roy Meadows is a good man is entirely beside the point. What does matter is that he gave statistically incorrect evidence because he is a doctor, and not a statistician. He was still wrong.

Whether Sally Clark was convicted on Meadow's evidence remains in the Jury room, as it should. I would maintain that sometimes the truth eludes us and that we need to be sophisticated enough to be satisfied with that. I have full confidence that children will not die because doctors are worried about this case. Children who are abused die all the time and those who work with them should be expected to maintain scrupulously high standards. I really don't agree with your comments about the BBC, Sweeney or that anyone is tainted. People like Meadows should be held to account and the media has done a good job of this. It is for the GMC to make any decisions about his practice.


Subject: Re: Sally Clark
Date: 27/05/2007 15:06:36 GMT Standard Time

Helen, my point is that it is perfectly proper and indeed obligatory for doctors who make errors like the ones in the Cleveland case are called to account but when they don’t they should be protected against mendacious journalists like the egregious Sweeney whose purpose is not to find out if murder occurred but to use the adversarial niceties of the Courts to pick at any point in order to protect his story. He will lie to you and say that the 1 in 73 million figures were Meadow’s when they were the statisticians employed in a government survey. He will use this figure and juxtapose it with another that is in fact the conditional probability of a second cot death when you’ve had a first. He will transpose words so that the inverse of what was meant is offered his readers. He is one of the leaders in a vile pack of malign journalists and mothers who have been accused of child abuse who hound those who have dared to expose them “pour encourager les autres’’. Were his accusations to be true then of course there would be no disputing them and he would deserve thanks but they are not true and he either knows they are not and is lying or is so obtuse that he fails to comprehend the incoherence of his copy. The counter to the 1 in 73 million would be the simple enquiry of the chance of a double murder but not a murmur was heard from the Defence essentially because they were not talking ‘cot deaths’ but the Crown thought they were.

It was a disgrace, one of the worst in the history of the General Medical Council, that a medical witness could be hauled before it after a complaint by a relative of the accused.

Like you I defer to the mother in the choice to abort a baby but would rather that a life hadn’t started and wouldn’t like to be the one who ended it “on social grounds”. Crushing a baby’s head as it makes its way towards life near term however seems to me to be a gross evil and those that perpetrate it should be charged with murder. To claim it as a mother’s right is to admit to a moral deficit that is a threat not only to a viable child but to humanity.

Subject: Re: Sally Clark
Date: 27/05/2007 15:11:24 GMT Standard Time

I always find it odd when people who I disagree with use more and more words in an attempt to persuade me of their point of view. I do understand what you think David, but we disagree as I think I said we would in my first response to your email, perhaps we could agree to do so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is increasing evidence that your correspondent may be on the right lines. Your faith in the British GMC is misplaced .
This from the American Academy of Pediatrics who are horrified by the treatment of world famous colleagues:

PEDIATRICS Vol. 119 No. 4 April 2007, pp. 800-802 (doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1980)
Related Collections


United Kingdom General Medical Council Fails Child Protection
Catherine Williams, LLB*

Department of Law, Sheffield University, Sheffield, United Kingdom

The attacks on child abuse pediatricians come in other forms as well. The British press attacks these doctors constantly. When complaints are filed, the physicians are hounded and insulted by the press. Several "theories" of child abuse are attacked. As in the cases of Drs Meadow and Southall, the concept of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (in which children are abused by the medical care system because caretakers report falsely, exaggerate, or even induce illness in their children) is discredited in the press as false and overdiagnosed. This occurs despite the number of well-documented cases in the literature. A Web site maintained by Mothers Against Munchausen Allegations ( keeps an ongoing record of such press articles.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

I suppose I don't have unreserved faith and trust in the GMC and the press exercise a great deal of power without responsibility. I also think that those who work in child protection come in for often harsher criticism than those who actually are responsible for harming children. I think Meadows was assassinated but so was Sally Clark and, on reflection, the merit is debateable in either case.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In taday's 'Daily Telegraph':
"Britain is not a good country for children. A recent report suggested there is none worse in Western Europe...........Is it absurd to suggest that our attitudes to children are connected with our tolerance of the highest abortion rates on Europe, a rate that suggests a lack of reverence for life, treating the unborn child as an unwanted commodity?"
Allan Massie.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

I rarely agree with the Daily Torygraph, and am pro-choice, but have no intention of having that debate here. The UNICEF report indicates poverty has a major impact on children in this country and I would agree that it is intolerable that children and their parents inhabit an environment of poverty in such a rich country. Those whose politics are right wing often thing people bring poverty upon themselves though.

7:49 AM  
Blogger DrD said...

Helen you may be interested to know that the recent edition of the journal "Archives of Diseases of Childhood" carries a review of the principal articles on double cot deaths where they are able to conclude that they are 'very rare' or 'very rare indeed'. Considering that they couldn't find one such case in an affluent non smoking family in their most favoured study one is tempted to agree with them. They think one may have a slightly increased risk of a second when you've had one and are in this category but not a substantial one.
Do you remember all the 'innocent' mothers that were going to be released consequent upon the review forced by the Meadow vilification? He was of course vindicated and now it seems the estimate for the rarity of two dead babies that he relayed to the Court from the statisticians might be the correct one. Well I never.
Kind regards.

4:00 PM  
Blogger DrD said...

You may have read that Angela Canning has left her husband and the only one of her children that survived (only just, for she was the victim of a near death episode that is a feature of those children who are later murdered by mother). That makes three dead and one survivor who has now been left behind. What was it Meadow said echoing of course the real author of the most useful aphorism? Two is suspicious, three is murder(until proved otherwise) but what does that make three and one near miss?

8:21 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

I publish these comments because Dr D is free to make them, however I profoundly disagree, and wish to make that clear. There is no doubt in my mind that Angela Canning is innocent and I am not surprised that her marriage has not survived the couple's experience. Dr D would be more at home on the comment pages of the daily snail where such misogyny is rife.

8:48 PM  
Blogger DrD said...

You must not confuse misogyny with a desire to protect the innocent from those in whom they place implicit trust and from whom they should expect a love that is maternal not homicidal. I think, like the jury which convicted her, that Canning killed her children and my reasons are not that I have a morbid hatred of women( which would surprise my wife and two daughters) but that the evidence against her makes it highly unlikely that she didn't and yet she and other similar women have been declared"innocent'( a concept unknown to British Law) as a result of the mendacious and devious machinations of a number of unsavoury people lead by a ranting, medically illiterate 'journalist' whose name now lends itself to the increased vulerabilty of children to abuse and death because of a dearth of those prepared to watch over them whilst subjecting themselves to the foulest of invective and threats of death. This is the 'Sweeney Effect'. Your certainty that Canning is innocent can be no more than the same sentiment that attended the campaign to release Maxine Robinson, jailed for the murder of two of her babies. "The worst miscarriage of Justice etc etc" the articles screamed until Maxine rather spoilt it by not only confessing to the two murders which incarcerated her but to the murder of another child some years earlier.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

So Dr D, you agree with you and I disagree with you, quelle suprise. I don't have any idea who Maxine Robinson is but her guilt doesn't implicate anyone else (

The misogyny was clearly a reference to you comment about Angela Canning's Marriage and the Daily Mail, not murder.

Please do go and comment elsewhere, I am bored, and very glad I am neither your wife or daughters.

7:45 PM  
Blogger DrD said...

Helen, I made no mention of the 'Daily Mail' nor am I as aquainted with its contents as you are. I am no misogynist.It is the men in this sorry story that disress me not the women. Happily my wife and daughters, educated to a level that you would not recognise nor it seems aspire to, are better able to engage with the difficulties of this world without recourse to the boredom of adolescence that you retain. It is ill mannered to engage with those devoid of manners and the capacity for debate at an equal intellectual level and I must desist. You have neither the courtesy nor the capacity for such discourse and must be left, untutored, to the
delights of a comforting but entirely unreal view of the world and its imperfect citizens.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

Had I said Dr D, "of course you are so right, why on earth didn't I realise that before I bothered to engage my untutored little mind with this intellectual Minotaur" I wonder if you would feel differently.

As it is, I feel patronised from a great height, though you have also made me laugh heartily on this rainy morning. I see little reason to defend my education, which has nothing to do with anything, but would be very surprised if either your wife or children had exceeded my achievements. How lovely for them if they have. I own all rights to the introduction of the Daily Mail, and I should apologise for that insult, because that is what it was. I would maintain it is your spiritual home, from the little I know of you.

We just disagree and I fail to understand how anything you have said would persuade me otherwise.

11:02 AM  
Blogger DrD said...

Helen you have wounded me with your last comment which surpasses all the pejorative references to my hatred of women and natural spiritual home in the Mail which in truth I can hardly read without fury and a contempt only equalled by the emotions that once accompanied any attempts to penetrate the suffocating pieties of the Grauniad. I was lead back by the admirable Ben Goldacre and 'Bad Science' which I couldn't believe at first was in the organ of 'right on' causes and 'alternative' medicine( as if there could be such a thing). Your achievements may well exceed those of my daughters for you were clearly better at lacrosse than they were and their sticks still lie where they casually discarded them. Considering that I was lucky enough to find and marry the 'world's finest woman' despite the mathematical absurdity of such an event I am afraid you lose out in the achievements battle and hope that you can adjust to that.

" O Woman! in our hour of ease, uncertain, coy and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel, thou!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

Nothing to adjust to, don't worry about that at all. I am anyway not in the business of resenting what others have or have achieved and have no desire to prove anything to you, just making a point that I wasn't as stupid as you appeared to imply; I just disagree with you. Peculiarly though, I was extraordinarily good at lacrosse.

Really not sure how I have wounded you, but you have not exactly conducted an argument without insult yourself, so I am probably guilty of responding in kind. I am hoping that you might now return to those wonderful women in your family and refrain from seeking attention here any longer.

4:52 PM  
Blogger DrD said...

You wounded me by denying all effects of my arguement so rendering it impotent. Men cannot abide being rendered impotent so I will away to the ministering angels who await me( if they are still there)
Best wishes Helen and good night.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Helen Sparkles said...

Unlike them, it is not my role to nurture your ego.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous John Sweeney said...


DrD writes: 'I think, like the jury which convicted her, that Canning killed her children.'

The jury did not know that there were eight infant deaths in Angela's family until the BBC investigated and discovered the fresh evidence.
Question 1) Are you aware of the genetic evidence that infant death ran in Angela Cannings' family?
Question 2)Who are you?


6:09 PM  

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