An article that everyone should read.

Sunday 20th Aug 2000


Children suffered burns in sinister experiments. NINE hundred babies were subjected to sinister "black box" monitoring experiments by controversial consultant Professor David Southall.

The babies were linked up to the boxes as part of an uncontrolled trial to measure sleeping patterns in children at risk from cot death, the Sunday Mirror can reveal. Police have promised to investigate a complaint by one mother, Elayne Dunn, who says her baby was burned by the machine.

Mrs Dunn, 38, and another parent, David Bozier, claim they were accused of child abuse when they confronted Southall with evidence the boxes had caused injuries to their children. The consultant is currently under suspension while his work is investigated by the General Medical Council.

Last month the Sunday Mirror revealed he conducted a separate ventilator trial in which premature babies died or suffered serious injuries. During the black box experiments parents were told to attach babies to the briefcase-sized monitors at home, using a network of wires and pads. They were advised to keep the children "caged" in playpens for as long as possible so as not to upset the instruments.

The boxes, designed by Southall, were paid for using hundreds of thousands of pounds mainly from cot death charities. The machines were supposed to heat the blood so that measurements can be taken of oxygen levels. Similar monitors are used in hospitals, but usually only for short periods and in a controlled way. The experiments were carried out while Southall worked at London's Royal Brompton Hospital and North Staffs Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent.

Mrs Dunn, from Crawley, West Sussex, said her daughter Inesse, now nine, suffered "very deep" burns. When she complained to the professor, she says he warned her that her daughter could be taken into care. Mrs Dunn said she later saw his medical notes which suggested she suffered from the attention-seeking disorder Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy - indicating Southall believed she harmed her daughter to draw attention for herself.

She complained to police after the Sunday Mirror exposed the disastrous ventilator experiment. Mrs Dunn said child protection officers had promised an inquiry, adding: "I believe it to be a police matter. The injuries happened when she was a baby, but someone should be brought to account for her suffering."

The family had originally been referred to Southall after Inesse suffered irregular sleep patterns and blackouts. "He said he wanted to put her on some new equipment that would measure the oxygen levels in her blood. It all sounded innocent so I agreed," said Mrs Dunn. "But I got a shock when I saw the equipment. It was a big black case with wires attached. I was told I would have to rig Inesse up to it at home. "I was told to put Inesse in a cot or other confined space and keep her on the machine for as long as possible. I didn't like it, and neither did Inesse. "I had to attach pads connected to wires to her arms, chest and legs. The whole thing was then hooked up to the mains.

"Inesse was pretty miserable but we persevered for months. Then I noticed she was developing red burn marks where the pads were. Inesse kept saying 'sore mummy, sore mummy'. She was obviously in pain, but even then we persevered for a while." She said Southall was furious when she told him of her daughter's injuries and Mrs Dunn then discovered his Munchausen's diagnosis.

"At first I was mortified, then I got angry. I thought, 'How dare Southall brand me in this way?'" Southall later admitted in a medical journal that the experiments were "uncontrolled". And he told a New Zealand TV station he designed the machine for babies with the help of a medical electronics firm. He said: "We've monitored about 900, something like that. I have pioneered this specialist field."

Mr Bozier, of Greenwich, South London, told last night how his daughter Hannah had also suffered burns because of a "black box". After Mr Bozier confronted Southall he again diagnosed the Munchausen's Syndrome and Hannah was taken into care. Following an eight-month battle, social workers allowed Hannah home after two leading paediatricians challenged Southall's diagnosis. Mr Bozier, 34, said: "The whole experience was absolute hell. Our lives were virtually ruined."


Posted: August 2000