A GP has been struck off after sharing one-sided statements about vaccines and encouraging parents to "deliberately misinform" health professionals about their children’s immunisation status, a medical tribunal has ruled.
London-based Dr Jayne Donegan, who regularly hosted paid events about vaccinations, was accused of eight charges at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) misconduct hearing. The tribunal heard how concerns were raised about Dr Donegan following investigations by undercover journalists and lectures she gave about vaccines in 2019 and 2020, which were recorded.
Following a November 2019 article about Dr Donegan in The Times, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for her to be investigated, saying: "Vaccines save lives - the science is beyond doubt. Anyone who claims otherwise is wilfully risking lives."
In removing her from the medical register, the tribunal noted Dr Donegan's lack of insight and remorse, failure to take responsibility for her actions and attempts to blame other doctors, especially junior hospital doctors.
She had passed on advice which had the potential to "cause harm and undermine or damage doctor-patient relationships", it said.
Failed to Give Balanced Information
The GMC alleged that she failed to give balanced information on the risks and benefits of immunisation and failed to comply with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical knowledge summaries.
The evidence included recordings from a lecture event from April 2019, titled "Vaccination - The Question", where she had discussed the efficacy of vaccinations and the risk of adverse reactions, as well as a lecture from June 2019 about the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, in which she told the audience how to falsify a child's immunisation record (AKA Red Book).
"Say you're up-to-date and act as if you're stupid – because they think you're stupid anyway," she told an audience member who said they wanted to avoid questions about their children's vaccination history in A&E.
In the recordings played for the tribunal she acknowledged that she could be "struck off" over her views.
Doctor Boycotted Hearing
Dr Donegan boycotted the hearing but sent her defence in an 80-page document, in which she claimed the tribunal was a " politically motivated show trial" that had been brought due to the " disgraced" Mr Hancock.
She claimed she had sought to provide balanced views by highlighting the risks of immunisation and vaccine efficacy because positive information was already available.
"Vaccines are not safe," she wrote in the document. "They cause adverse reactions – some of which are serious, including death. But the general public do not know that – they think they can trust their doctors."
Dr Donegan also wrote: "If parents mislead healthcare professionals, the responsibility for that lies with healthcare professionals.
"Every doctor has a duty to ensure a child can get proper medical care as and when it is needed without parents being bullied by doctors about a child's vaccination status and frightened away and put off seeking attention for their child."
Three Charges Not Proven
The tribunal found Dr Donegan had "strongly focused on the risks of immunisation without meaningfully weighing this against the positive aspects of immunisation".
"She stated that vaccines are not needed, that they have adverse effects, are not effective, have side effects that are not monitored, and stated that the government supports vaccination because it makes money from it," it said.
The tribunal rejected her claims that her comments at the MMR event were meant to be "humorous" and that the audience would be "stupid" if they failed to recognise that.
It also dismissed her claims that expert witness Dr Frederick Andrew Riordan was "biased" and, therefore, his evidence could not be relied upon, that he was in breach of his obligations and unaware of the proper standards doctors must meet, and that he lacked the relevant knowledge and expertise.
Three of the charges – that she gave advice that put new-born babies at risk of "significant harm", made untrue statements regarding vaccines, and of dishonesty – were found not proved.
The second of these charges related to statements she made after being cleared of misconduct by a previous tribunal in 2007 over a report she gave to the family division of the High Court in 2002. The report – criticised as "junk science" by a judge – was used to support the case of two mothers who opposed vaccination of their daughters, contrary to their fathers' wishes.
As Dr Donegan had previously been cleared of alleged failures to be objective, independent, and unbiased, the tribunal said she had "mistakenly believed" her views on immunisation had been "validated and vindicated", and therefore didn't know her statements were untrue.
Speaking after the tribunal, she told Medscape News UK via a solicitor friend: "I am looking forward to no longer being a registered medical practitioner and with continuing my lectures, and I am so pleased I boycotted the hearing with all the irregularities involved, including bogus dishonesty charges.
"The Tribunal is mistaken about the standard to be met by every doctor. I comply with the Supreme Court's standard in Montgomery in 2015, the leading case law on informed consent. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries do not comply. The tribunal could not even get the law right, even when I spelt it out to them – so what chance would there be of getting anything else right in this political show trial?"
Editor's note: The headline of this article has been revised to more accurately reflect the main action that led to Dr Donegan being struck off.