The conviction of Myles Bradbury has rightly shocked and disgusted the general public. It seems almost inconceivable that a member of a vocational profession, dedicated to the caring of others, would abuse his position of trust in such a gross manner.
I believe that there is a general acceptance of medical professionals carrying out examinations which we, myself included, believe must be necessary. Why? Because there is an expectation that an individual who has taken the Hippocratic Oath, dedicating themselves to ensuring individuals overcome illness, would never think to abuse those in their care.
Unfortunately, there are those within the healthcare profession who do use their position to sexually assault those in their care. There are no statistics relating to convictions regarding sexual assaults at the hands of healthcare professionals. However, it appears on the basis of news reporting of assaults, that abuse at the hands of doctors is not as prevalent as other professions or entities.
Upon reading the details surrounding Myles Bradbury’s conviction my first thought was, “How was this able to happen?” However, thinking about it more deeply I believe that it was able to happen very easily.
Abuse of Trust
Like priests and teachers before them, doctors are held in high esteem by local communities. Until very recently any advice given by a doctor was treated as sacrosanct and followed reverentially. This means that if a doctor wished to examine you, you willingly complied because you had total faith in their ability as medical practitioners and therefore assumed that any examination was necessary.
Perhaps it is this element of faith that means that individuals are more accessible to those rogue doctors with a predilection to abuse those children in their care. This element of faith is normal and pervasive. Recently I was offered a chaperone for an examination with a male doctor who would merely be listening to my heartbeat. The question regarding a chaperone was posed and without even considering the question fully, I answered it would not be necessary. Why did I do this? Because it did not even occur to me that the consultant would assault me. I was seeing him for a routine check up and he is an individual that I can trust given his occupation.
Examinations by their very nature happen in private. I know that I would not want the world as a spectator during a medical appointment. Therefore these examinations happen behind closed doors or within bays that are shielded from the ward by curtains. Once a door is closed or a curtain drawn no one, other than those present, knows what goes on.
Moreover, a sick child is generally not aware of what a routine examination is, and what is out of the ordinary. It has been reported that whilst working at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, Bradbury would draw the curtain, shielding himself from the ward, and use the guise of an examination to abuse children in his care. This is despicable. Given the nature of the children’s illnesses (Bradbury treated cancer patients) it is likely they had become well used to being prodded and poked by those caring for them. Bradbury’s actions were carried out under the cloak of respectability afforded to him by his profession.
I think that as people become more aware of what is and is not acceptable during a medical examination further instances of rogue doctors will become apparent. This can only be a good thing.
Preventing another Myles Bradbury
So how can we prevent another Myles Bradbury? I believe that there should be compulsory chaperones on children’s wards and that parents should be with children during GP examinations. Mandatory reporting should also be operational in hospitals with regard to employees. It has since emerged that the authorities were aware of Bradbury for 16 months before he was apprehended. This is a failure on their part. If intelligence is passed to the authorities regarding the downloading of abusive images or films from the internet they should be fully investigated and charges pressed. It is not clear how long Bradbury operated for but I do know that had The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre acted sooner he would have been out of our children’s hospitals 16 months earlier.