Patient Committed Suicide After His Doctor Was Hounded By Dr Ben Goldacre’s Badscience Forum Internet Bullies – Perpetrator’s Mild Two Year Cautionary Sentence Only Just Ended December 2013

[STOP PRESS 4 Jan 2014 @15:02: Dr Ben Goldacre’s Internet Bullies Given OK To Launch Attacks On Their Own Blogs – And Told To Shut Up On His BadScience Forum. This new CHS article is published because since the CHS article below was published CHS has obtained information showing some people will not take notice even when it is spelt out clearly for them.]

A patient committed suicide after an anonymous malicious complaint was made by Stuart Jones to the UK’s General Medical Council about the patient’s treating physician, a disciplinary tribunal was told.  Stuart Jones [Registration Number: CS17316] was at the time a member of Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum and was a clinical scientist at the Queens Hospital, Romford, UK. The physician concerned sometimes employed treatment methods which were not those conventionally employed by others but which apparently reaped benefits for patients.

After making the complaint to the GMC about the patient’s doctor, Stuart Jones wrote on May 19th 2010 on Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum to other forum members:

Yup, that’s exactly why I complained actually, to give SM a bucket load of administration to wade through and increase anxiety levels in her patients, very pleasurable in deed!”

The patient, who was suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome at the time [also known as ME] killed himself, according to evidence from his doctor, because he mistakenly believed his doctor was no longer allowed to treat him: ‘Deluded quack’ jibe nearly ruined doctor’s career, Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2011.

Members of Dr Ben Goldacre’s Badscience Forum are encouraged by Dr Ben Goldacre to take direct action and get involved.  This has included some members launching online attacks on medical professionals who employ treatment modalities others in mainstream medicine do not. BadScience Forum members are also encouraged to make complaints to a large number of regulatory bodies all the time.

In fact Dr Goldacre encourages his BadScience Forum members to get very, very involved:

The time for talking has passed. I draw the line at kidnapping, incidentally.”

Dr Ben Goldacre has practised as a psychiatrist and is a columnist for the UK’s Guardian newspaper where his column, which appears infrequently now, is devoted to what he calls BadScience.

Stuart Jones’ complaint resulted in the temporary suspension by the GMC of the patient’s doctor.

The GMC prosecution of the deceased patient’s treating doctor was dropped abruptly by the GMC.  By 22nd August 2011 the GMC advised the Doctor all charges had been dropped – [see chonology at end of this article]. 

Stuart Jones was in turn prosecuted by the Health and Care Professions Council.  He was subjected to a very minor punishment of merely a two-year Caution Order.  The two year caution order was imposed in December 2011 but will remain on the register until 18th January this year.

Between 1st March 2009 and 26th October 2010 Stuart Jones, posting anonymously on Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum as “Jonas“, made numerous disparaging remarks about the patient’s treating physician.

The career of the patient’s doctor was nearly destroyed in addition to the patient taking his own life in despair at the thought of not getting effective treatment after Stuart Jones described the patient’s doctor as a ‘deluded, pill-peddling quack’ the disciplinary tribunal hearing was told. Stuart Jones also wrote on the BadScience website that the patient’s doctor, who specialises in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, “lulled patients into a dangerous world of make-believe pseudo-science”.  The Health Professions Council heard evidence that Jones’ messages were “defamatory, derogatory and disparaging” and had a detrimental effect on the doctor’s professional and personal life.

Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum was flooded with 10,000 posts responding to Jones’ initial message in April 2010.

Evidence at the hearing from the patient’s doctor was:

In fact, there was one patient in particular who thought because I had been suspended I could no longer could be consulted. I don’t know if this happened directly as a result of that but the man deteriorated and he actually committed suicide. That’s just one example of how one patient was very seriously affected. I don’t know if that’s directly as part of Mr Jones’ blogging but it resulted.

Causing a patient to commit suicide by vicious bullying of the patient’s treating doctor specifically to “increase anxiety levels” in the victim doctor’s patients is apparently not a sufficiently serious crime to warrant more than a 2 year “caution” for the Health and Care Professions Council.

Although no charges were brought against the patient’s doctor by the GMC and the doctor was never called before the GMC, aborted investigations in 2006/07 cost the GMC £136,692.12 in solicitors’ fees and disbursements and a possible further £500,000 on internal costs – according to a report on a website set up to support the patient’s doctor by patients and wellwishers.

The GMC is funded by a levy paid by all medical doctors registered in the UK.

It appears also no action has been taken by the GMC regarding Dr Goldacre’s BadScience Forum activities.

The GMC is meant to act on patient complaints. The GMC is an unusual organisation as this previous CHS post demonstrates:

UK General Medical Council Told Docs “Commit Fraud for MMR Vaccine Bonuses”

To complain to the GMC you can contact them on:

Email: gmc@gmc-uk.org.

Or telephone:

  • Inside the UK: 0161 923 6602
  • Outside the UK: +44 161 923 6602

Monday to Friday – 8am to 6pm – Saturday – 9am to 5pm – UK Time.

Details of the outcome of the 2011 HCPC hearing against Stuart Jones can be read here on the HCPC’s website:

Stuart Jones

Profession: Clinical scientist
Registration Number: CS17316
Hearing type: Final Hearing
Date & Time of hearing: 20/12/2011 – 10:00 End: 20/12/2011 – 18:00
Location: HPC, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU
Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

Registration Number: CS17316

CHRONOLOGY [6 Jan 2014]: This is a chronology of some of what the poor doctor has had to face at the hands of the General Medical Council.

Compare what follows with the case of Dr Jane Barton.

With Barton the police investigated 92 deaths over 12 years [no criminal charges were brought].  An inquest found ten of 12 deaths followed excessive doses of morphine. Dr Barton was neither struck off nor suspended but simply had restrictions to prescribe certain drugs imposed on her.  This GMC decision came on January 29th 2010.

What The GMC Did To This Doctor

Remember at all times that no patient was harmed.  Patients benefited and praised the Doctor and none were put at risk.

Nov 2002: five day GMC fitness to practice hearing scheduled to take place. Five complaints only from doctors, none from patients. No patient harmed, put at risk, nor any malpractice.  Complaints objected to doctor’s style of practice and the allergy, environmental, nutritional approach to medicine.

Oct 2002: hearing postponed to Feb 2003 and extended 8 days for eight complaints.

Jan 2003: Feb hearing cancelled – no proper explanation.  Hearing was cancelled because at least one allegation was fabricated, one based on untrue facts and patients had refused to co-operate.

April 2007:  new set of allegations & new hearing proposed.  Again, includes complaints only from doctors and who do not like the style of practice. No patient harmed or put at risk. Now extended also to complaints about website.

July 2007: 10 day General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practice hearing scheduled to take place Sept 2007.

That hearing later postponed and proposed as a thirteen day hearing in February 2008.

Oct 2007: GMC drop all charges.

Aug 2009: Aug 12th GMC had been found out removing documentary evidence supporting the accused Doctor.

Apr 2010: Apr 2nd anonymous complaint received from GMC by Doctor [complaint from Stuart Jones].

April 2010: Thurs 8th April GMC orders Doctor to attend “Interim Orders Panel” for following Monday 12th April.  IOP is to make no decision about validity of complaint – an “interim” hearing only.

April 2010: April 9th – hearing postponed to April 29th.

April 2010: April 29th IOP hearing of unsubstantiated anonymous complaint [from Stuart Jones].  IOP hearing is not concerned if allegations are true but with whether to impose an order to protect public if the allegations were found to be true.  GMC interim panel decided there was a “potential risk to public safety” so imposed an interim order.  [Compare the Barton case above where Barton’s patients died after morphine overdoses, inquests & police investigations with this one where patients benefitted from Dr’s treatments & supported Doc.  Barton’s patients were in no condition to complain.]

Dec 2011: Over 1 1/2 years later yet another IOP hearing.

Jan 2011: Temporary suspension lifted.

Aug 2011: 1st Aug all sanctions lifted.

Aug 2011: 22nd Aug all charges dropped.  GMC cancels Fitness to Practice Hearing [scheduled for November 2011] and advises there is no case to answer.  Dr reinstated on the General Medical Council Register.

Dec 2011:  20th Dec Stuart Jones found guilty by HCPC.

Oct 2012: Despite serious charges of professional misconduct against the doctor being dropped the GMC continued its long victimisation of this courageous Dr.  But this time regarding charges concerning the content of her website.  The first expert witness the GMC picked to give evidence did not give them the answer they wanted.  His evidence was:

Dr Hr stated that he did not consider that you were acting inappropriately although he considered that your reference to ‘dangerous medicine’ was inappropriate. He added the caveat that you should ensure that the information given should be accurate and not alarmist. Overall, he considered that your actions were appropriate and of a reasonable competent standard.

So the GMC commissioned two more experts to address the website content and they decided it was not appropriate.

Instead of being struck from the medical register the Dr was given a “warning”.

— THE END — [for the moment]

13 Responses

  1. I had warned Ben that a fatality would eventually happen one day. He paid no heed to it. Thanks for featuring this as no one else has. Scroll down to see Bad Sciences apology to me over the issue. http://themedicaljournalistoncall.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/skepticat-uk.html

  2. I suggest the police are informed of this issue immediately. I say this because the patients inquest should be held and these issues of stalking outlined. Moreover, Ben Goldacre should be held to account by the GMC for failing to control this and the events resulting in a death of a patient.

    Please pass my sympathies to the family. I am so sorry and feel very sad that this happened.

  3. Hi Dr Pal. There is very little doubt in our opinion that grovelling apology was written by Ben Goldacre. Well done for getting it.

    Goldacre’s BadScience Forum is just right to attract people of very little stature – it is so low they don’t have to stoop and fit in effortlessly.

  4. Well, during that period, neither cared that Sarah Myhill and I were being subjected to horrible attacks. I was threatened with assault and much more. My point is, the forum should be offline. Indeed, someone should campaign for it. It has cost too much. Even the expert in Cyberstalking Paul Bocij criticised it. Now this death is unforgivable. I wish we had done more in getting the forums offline then maybe this poor patient would have survived. Have circulated your piece. Well done for writing it. Will blog it as well.

    All the best

    Rita

  5. Thanks.

    Goldacre trolls are tweeting “Nameless person dead cos he “mistakenly believed his doctor was no longer allowed to treat him”. Pull the other one.”

    It took them over a working day to come up with that one.

    Reported here from the hearing: “‘Deluded quack’ jibe nearly ruined doctor’s career”. Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2011.

  6. Dr Pal,

    What some people do not seem to realise is that if every practising medical doctor was subjected to the kinds of online attention and scrutiny which too many BadScience Forum members give to the minority of pioneering medical professionals providing the relief and care to patients most modern medicine fails to provide then the GMC would be awash with cases, there could be very few medical doctors either in practice or without a GMC determination against them and possibly far worse might happen on a much larger scale.

    What you and others seem to have been subjected to looks like what we might expect medical fascism to look like.

  7. I’m not sure it’s fair to point a finger at Goldacre specifically on this–it was because of that Jones thread on Myhill that he basically removed the forum from his website.

    The hundreds-of-pages-long thread that was, um, ‘lost.’

    I think it’s fair to give Jones the benefit of the doubt that he raised his complaint, and started this thread, nearly 4 years ago, in good faith. He saw something he thought was wrong, and tried to do something about it, going through proper channels. Then he started a thread about it with a pseudonym, and it turned into an outlet for people to act like the worst of childish bullies.

    It got so bad that someone weighed in with something so incredibly vile that it wasn’t even noticed, such was the tone of the thread. Even so, after the fact, it stood out, and some time afterward, perhaps a year, somebody was reading through the thread, and noticed it. And there it was, an incredibly rude reference to sexual assault that, it was suggested, Dr. Myhill should for some reason be subject to.

    When this was brought to the attention of the mods, they were of course shocked. Why nobody noticed before…well, in context, again, it didn’t really even stand out, such was the nature of the thread. The person who’d put up the offending post was characterized as something of a stranger, a ‘drive-by,’ even, who had gone so far over the top that he or she certainly couldn’t be seen as being representative of the forum.

    There was some tut-tutting over what should happen to this thread. The post was so far over the top…yet nobody seemed concerned why it hadn’t been noticed as such by anyone reading the thread at the time. Of course, the only people doing that were likely limited to those participating, or a few observers who didn’t see anything wrong with the thread outside of the one horrible, offensive post.

    And then the thread was ‘lost.’ Never to be seen again. So, of course, I can’t prove any of this, though I did see the thread just prior to quarantine and deletion.

    Is there any doubt that it was one of these people who recoiled in horror at the thought that the already-sanctioned Myhill was participating in midwifery, and called in the authorities, only to find that what she’d actually done was to assist in the birth of a litter of piglets? Well, based on my memory of Jones’ posts in that thread, it wouldn’t have been him. I could be remembering this incorrectly, but, whether right or wrong, I do not recall him being mean-spirited, or engaging much in the hundreds of pages of rank insults that followed the initial posting. I do recall reading about the perceptions of the mods as to how Goldacre reacted once all of this came to light; how would most people feel were they in his shoes? It had to be tremendously embarrassing. I don’t think he’s had much to do with the forum since, and only allowed it to continue so long as the mods promised they’d never let anything like that ever happen again.

    But they let it happen once, which was once too many.

  8. The uberthread is NOT lost.

  9. […] blogger appears to be blaming the Bad Science forum for a […]

  10. While there was an insult of a sexual nature directed at a poster on that thread, it most certainly was not aimed at Dr Myhill, but one of the CFS/ME advocates. The person who posted it was banned, and has not apparently returned.

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