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GP Charged with Spreading False Vaccine Information

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a comment from Dr Donegan.

A GP is accused of making unbalanced and false statements about vaccines and putting new-born infants at risk of harm, a medical tribunal has heard.

Dr Jayne Donegan is also accused of encouraging parents to "deliberately misinform" healthcare professionals about whether their children had been given immunisations for measles and other life-threatening diseases.

A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) misconduct hearing heard how concerns were raised after Dr Donegan, who does not currently have a licence to practise, had a consultation with an undercover journalist and staged lectures about vaccines in 2019 and 2020 .

Eight Charges Filed

Dr Donegan faces eight charges, including failing to give balanced information on the risks and benefits of immunisation, failing to comply with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical knowledge summaries, and providing advice about vaccines "which put new-born infants at risk of significant harm".

Investigators for the General Medical Council (GMC)  further alleged she made statements about "vaccines being tested", including on her website, which she knew were untrue, and "encouraged parents to deliberately misinform healthcare professionals about their children's immunisation status and/or diet".

'Number of Occasions' When the Doctor was Untruthful

Presenting Officer Ciaran Rankin, on behalf of the GMC , said video recordings of the doctor had led to the case being brought against her, and that she used her job as a doctor to "add credibility" to the statements she made in the lectures.

"The concerns we have having viewed them are that she failed to give a balanced view of the risks and benefits of immunisation and she failed to comply with the NICE knowledge summaries.

"Thirdly, we suggest she put the health of infants at risk by virtue of that which she was saying."

He said that Dr Donegan's website had been examined and "putting it simply and bluntly, this contained material we allege was simply not true".

Mr Rankin said it was one of "a number of occasions" where Dr Donegan was allegedly untruthful.

In one lecture, titled "Vaccination - The Question", given on April 2019 and played to the tribunal, she told the audience that she was not anti-vaccination, or there to tell people whether or not to vaccinate.

"I wouldn't say I was pro [vaccination]. But I'm pro child and adult health and that's what made me first start researching into vaccinations," she told the audience. "And what I want you do is to take information so you understand there is a question and it's not just black and white and there’s one course everyone should follow.

"If for example, I said to people, 'You should not vaccinate your children' then I'm doing the same as the government who says you should vaccinate your children," Dr Donegan said. "I would be taking away that choice you need to make yourself." 

She went on to discuss the efficacy of vaccinations and risk of reactions and told the audience that, after becoming a mother herself, she had sought to learn the "truth" by researching and obtaining government statistics.

In another lecture about the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine from June 2019, GMC alleged that she told the audience how to falsify a child's health record – or red book – detailing their vaccine history.

In the recording, she is also heard telling a parent who wanted to avoid questions about their children’s vaccine history in A&E: "Say you're up to date and act as if you’re stupid because they think you're stupid anyway."

Doctor 'Boycotting' the Proceedings

The tribunal heard that she had opted to "boycott" proceedings, did not have legal representation, and denied all the charges.

In a comment to Medscape News UK, Dr Donegan said: "I'm boycotting the proceedings because it is a political show trial and the dishonesty charge is bogus – I guess the panel did not mention that."

Although Dr Donegan is currently registered, she has hasn't had a licence to practise since March 2022.

Conditions were placed on her registration in September 2022, which state that she must not "prescribe, administer, advise upon or have primary responsibility for childhood vaccinations" or "advise patients, parents, carers, or legal guardians not to give a true vaccination history to a healthcare worker".

The hearing, which started on 19 June, is expected to continue until 7 July.