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  Anne

The first part of this story is told by Mary Raftery in her article  “Left Free to Harass in Ireland ” Irish Times 19th January 2006 .

Anne is 33 years old. As a small child, she was sexually abused by a neighbour and she has spent years battling serious illness. She has been in and out of hospital for treatment of anorexia nervosa, a condition which has almost killed her.

But that is not all that Anne (which is not her real name) has had to contend with. During one of her stays in psychiatric hospital in 2000, she fell under the care of a British psychiatrist employed there as locum.

This was Dr. John Harding-Price, who worked in two Irish psychiatric hospitals – St. Luke’s in Clonmel and St Canice’s in Kilkenny – despite being under investigation and eventually struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK .

Three patients in Britain had made complaints about him. The GMC found that in the case of a 17 – year-old patient, Harding-Price had “failed to respect her privacy and dignity” by keeping her undressed unnecessarily and by moving her underpants without her consent. This patient wept in distress as she gave evidence against him during the hearing.

Harding-Price had subjected another patient to persistent questioning about her sex life and had breached confidentiality. He had failed in his standard of clinical care to a third patient.

The GMC struck him off the register of medical practitioners, stating that his “conduct displays an approach to practice which has no place in medicine.”

Harding-Price appealed this decision to the Privy Council of the House of Lords, which rejected his case out of hand. Its judgment stated that he had shown “ a  remarkable  lack of insight into why [the patients]     had found h is conduct upsetting. The conclusion was irresistible that, given the opportunity, he would be likely to continue to put at risk the dignity and privacy of patients in the future.”

Unable to practise in Britain , Harding-Price arrived in this country and was promptly given a job by the South-eastern Health Board. He had been registered to practise here for a number of years and the Irish Medical Council decided to allow him to continue, despite the evidence from the UK.(“In Ireland you are treated like a gentleman, even if you are under investigation,” he told me.)

Meanwhile, Harding-Price had been treating Anne for her anorexia. She became distressed and alarmed at his attitude. At one stage, he lifted up her T-Shirt without her permission and told her she had a fine body for a woman. On another occasion, he attempted to bring her out to a local swimming pool, again contrary to her wishes.

Anne, with the support of her family, decided to take a complaint against Harding-Price to the health board. To allow him to mount a defence, the psychiatrist was given a copy of Anne’s medical file, on the strict undertaking that he return it upon completion of the investigation, an undertaking which he signed.

However, despite repeated requests from the health board, he did not return Anne’s highly sensitive and private medical notes. In fact, he proceeded to disseminate details from her file to third parties, in a flagrant breach of confidentiality.

He provided intimate details of Anne’s medical history to a newspaper and a local radio station. He also dispatched her entire file to the Minister for Health. Ann and her family complained to the Medical Council, who eventually found him guilty of professional misconduct for this in May 2005. They handed out only the mildest penalty of an admonishment.

Against specific instructions from the health board, Harding-Price also persisted in writing numerous letters to Anne herself, which only intensified her distress and her gnawing fear that her personal and private details were being spread far and wide. He even suggested publication of her story.

And these letters keep coming. The latest arrived just before Christmas. Anne is still being treated for anorexia and remains in a fragile state. She finds his letters deeply upsetting.

Anne’s mother, on her daughter’s behalf, took a further complaint to the Medical Council on this. “I felt that someone must be able to stop him harassing Anne and causing her such distress.” She told me. She had great hopes that the Medical Council would act to protect her daughter.

On Christmas Eve, she received the Medical Council’s decision. There would be no hearing, they said, as there was no prima-facie evidence against the doctor concerned.

The council also wrote to Harding-Price, to let him know he was off the hook. Incredibly though, it added the following: “Should you disseminate any further confidential information or make any contact with the  {X} family it may be left with no option but to hold an inquiry concerning your professional conduct.” Anne’s mother was outraged by this.

“They tell me” she said, “that there’s no evidence Harding-Price has done anything wrong, but then they tell him that if he does it again, they’ll hold a hearing.  Surely he is either acting wrongly or he isn’t?  They seem to want to protect the doctor and not the patient. But who’s going to protect Anne and her privacy? And who’s going to protect the rest of us the next time any doctor breaches patient confidentiality?”

-------------------------------------------

Yes as the above article in the Irish Times says, my daughter nearly died more than once. The first time was in Dublin , when she was discharged from hospital with her sugar count so low that she was in danger of going into a coma and we had to make a dash at night to find a rural hospital who would take her in.

The second time was when her potassium levels were so low that, on being admitted to another hospital, they had an alarm button beside her bed for the nurse’s use.

The third time was when my Husband and I were called in to yet another hospital on a sunny Sat. afternoon, that is indelibly etched on our minds – the consultant asked us to come in and told us “The time has come to let her go – her quality of life is poor, she has cost a lot and quite frankly I don’t need the hassle, I have enough patients who want to live. She will slip away in about 36 hrs if we were lucky” We heard it with disbelief and then looked at this Doctor, who had taken an oath to help people and told him “as long as there was breath in our bodies, we would fight to keep our daughter alive, if she was to die, it would not be because we gave up. We stayed in the hospital until after midnight and we got her to agree to have a little – and 36 hrs. later she didn’t  die and thank God she is still alive and although she is still struggling to recover, she has travelled along the road to recovery a long way. She still has a way to go, but I think she will make her dream come true “to reach recovery and then help others on that same long rocky road.

She has taken the first step, a Diploma in Physiology, and hopefully little by little she will reach her goal, despite the ongoing problems she is having with the Medical profession here in Ireland .

Anorexia Nervosa is a mountain in itself to climb, with little or no help here and as the story above shows, the quality of care these patients have to endure – but I know she is a fighter and will come through with God’s help, her family’s love, a lot of prayer and medical help abroad.

---o---

Banned doctor working in Dublin -  Sunday Times article 12th March 2006

Article by Kate Butler and Dearbhail McDonald

A DISGRACED psychiatrist banned from working in Britain is now operating a part-time private practice from a Dublin hotel. John Harding Price, 74, was struck off the medical register in Britain five years ago after three female patients made allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Unable to practise in Britain, he moved to Ireland and, worked as a locum doctor in psychiatric hospitals in Clonmel and  Kilkenny. The doctor has been investigated by the Irish Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, following a complaint by an Irish patient. A teenager from the southeast - anorexia sufferer who was sexually abused as a child - complained that she had been abused by the British doctor. The council held that Harding Price was fit to practise, allowing him to continue to treat patients in Ireland. Last week The Sunday Times tracked him down to Dublin's Portobello hotel where he was making arrangements to meet patients. "I come over when I'm asked to see somebody," - said Harding 'Price, who claimed he is being given referrals by Irish doctors. "I'm old enough now that I'm not going to sell up home and travel around setting up camp. My wife and I find Ireland civilised and pleasant." Harding Price's arrangements have alarmed mental health campaigners. "People are appalled that he's allowed come here having been struck off by the General Medical Council [GMC]," said John McGuinness, a Kilkenny TD. "Some families are quite disturbed that he's back in Ireland. He is still in contact with them in a way that's unacceptable to them - he's quite sinister and mischievous in that way."

The Irish Medical Council has been criticised for allowing Harding Price to practise in Ireland, but it says its hands are tied. Three years ago the Supreme Court ruled that doctors struck off in another country are free to practise in Ireland unless the council holds its own inquiry. The court ruled that the absence of oral testimony from complainants deprives a doctor of a fair hearing. The GMC is allowed to use fitness to practise judgments in other countries to prevent a doctor from practising in Britain. The Irish Medical Council found Harding Price guilty of misconduct last year, but only for a breach of confidentiality.

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