What happens when an internationally renowned child specialist working in one of the world’s best children’s hospitals is found guilty of sexually abusing young boys? The news barely made it into most of the world’s mass media 2 weeks ago..read on.
Prof Philipp Bonhoeffer, former head of cardiology at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London until 2010, was found guilty by a panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service on 21st September 2012 of sexually molesting young boys in France and Kenya. Read the full details here.
In a subseqent meeting of the Panel a few days later, it ruled that Prof Bonhoeffer’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of misconduct and decided to erase him from the General Medical Council register, thereby barring him from practising as a doctor in the UK.
The punishment appears appropriate but some isuues need to be highlighted:
-Why did it take so long for the Panel to formalise the charges when the first reported abuse was as early as 1995?
-Was there any element of cover-up by peers or the hospital in an attempt to save face?
-Being struck off the GMC Register in the UK merely means being barred from working in that country. He is still able to practise in Belgium (where he hails from) as well as the Continent.
This case highlights once again that professionals, being placed in a privileged position as a member of the medical profession, are entrusted with certain reponsibilities for which they are beholden to uphold. When this trust is abused, mechanisms must be in place to protect this trust. The question is, are these mechanisms adequate?
The recent revelation of an American football coach sexually assaulting 10 boys who were placed under his charge (see here) must have placed many parents under some distress. How did the culprit get away with it undetected for so many years? Why did not the victims raise the alarm?
Like many sexual predators, Jerry Sandusky developed strong relationships of love and trust with his victims before molesting them. Quite often, such pedophiles position themselves into positions of respect and trust, such as being football coaches, physiotherapists and boy scout leaders. This is not to say, of course, that everyone in this position are sexual predators.
Child safety expert Irene van der Zande says that pedophiles know how to find and manipulate vulnerable kids – and how to put on a great show for everyone else, even members of their family. Quite often, these kids do not speak up because the person abusing them is someone they love and trust.
Van der Zande, child safety expert and the author of The Kidpower Book For Caring Adults, offers the following tips to protect children from child abusers:
1. Accept the reality that many child molesters may seem like wonderful people. Don’t be fooled by outside appearances. Pay attention to what someone is actually doing with your kids. If someone who is responsible for the care of many kids starts to single your child out for special attention, be careful. Don’t assume that someone is safe just because this person is generous, beloved, charming, and kind.
- Know the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse (aarp.org)