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When a doctor makes a public statement about a medical issue, we expect them to tell the truth and not mislead people. They have a professional responsibility to ensure the advice they give reflects the scientific evidence.
The UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) investigates doctors whose behaviour appears to have fallen below what we might reasonably expect of them. But it appears to have decided not to investigate doctors who spread vaccine misinformation – that is, statements which over-emphasise the harms of vaccines and under-emphasise their benefits.
Vaccine misinformation is misleading and potentially dangerous, especially when directed at groups who are at increased risk of harm from covid-19, such as pregnant women. When medical doctors lend their professional authority to that misinformation, their statements can be influential. This could cause members of the public to believe in dangerous fake science, and erode public trust in the medical profession.
A doctor is working with Good Law Practice, the not for profit law firm set up by Good Law Project, to require the GMC to investigate doctors who deliberately share vaccine misinformation on social media and more widely. He is bringing the case because he (and other doctors) believe the GMC must fulfill its obligations to protect the public from misinformation.
He is challenging the GMC asking it to deliver on its main obligation – to protect the public.
The claimant, Dr Matt Kneale, wrote to the GMC asking it to investigate a regulated doctor for repeatedly making statements about COVID-19 vaccines that are factually inaccurate, misleading and potentially harmful. You can read that letter here.
When the GMC continued to refuse to act, Kneale issued judicial review proceedings against them.
The sums raised will be used to meet the legal costs arising. If for some reason all the money on this case, net of processing fees, is not spent on this case, the surplus will be allocated by the doctor to other litigation to protect the NHS.
The GMC has accepted that its decision not to investigate the allegations against Dr Aseem Malhotra was “materially flawed”. It will now reconsider Dr Matthew Kneale’s appeal of the decision not to investigate.
The council have insisted on going back to court to determine how much of Kneale’s costs they will pay, and have agreed to pay £4,000 plus VAT towards Malhotra’s costs, which is highly unusual.
We are very grateful for your support. We’ll be scrutinising the GMC’s next steps closely, and will stand by to challenge them if needed.
We are delighted to announce that the High Court has granted permission to proceed with the legal challenge . The hearing is due to be listed for 1 day in 2024.
In June 2023, Kneale launched a judicial review challenging the GMC’s refusal to reconsider its decision. A statement of the facts and grounds can be read here (PDF). He seeks an order quashing the GMC’s decision and requiring them to refer the allegation against Dr Malhotra for further investigation.
The court has granted Dr Kneale a costs capping order (which exist to protect claimants who are bringing “public interest proceedings” by limiting the amount they could have to pay towards the other party’s costs if they lose). In this case, Kneale’s potential liability has been capped at 35% of the total raised by the crowdfunder, up to a maximum of £15,000 (and the other parties’ liability has been capped at £15,000).
Please note some changes have been made to the original text in this crowdfunder, specifically: 1) clarification to reflect that there is a single claimant in this case 2) updated wording to reflect that Dr Kneale’s case has proceeded to a judicial review against the GMC 3) deletion of the claim that 10% of the fees for this crowdfunder will be a contribution to the general running costs of Good Law Project (a standard piece of text in template crowdfunders hosted by Good Law Project that does not apply here) and additional specificity and transparency around how the funds will be used.
This crowdfunder is now closed.
Thanks to the amazing support of Good Law project supporters, we raised £xx.xxx.
If you’d like to support our general work, you can do so here: