Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Rita Pal Complaint

I see the furore surrounding the General Medical Council's attempts to silence medical blogger Dr Rita Pal is refusing to go away.

Since online tech newspaper The Register featured this ludicrous attempt to prevent blogging doctors from linking to documents already in the public domain last week, the story has been picked up by numerous bloggers, including Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, Seroxat Secrets, Furious Seasons, Soulful Sepulcher, KevinMD amongst many others.

And quite right, too! This sort of nonsense from a regulatory body - particularly one as disreputable and downright shoddy as the GMC - just won't do, and it's about time they were exposed to the public ridicule they so richly deserve.

However, it occurs to me that there's another side to this story. Certainly, as I and many others have pointed out, the GMC must be incredibly obtuse if it thinks such a complaint is worthy of even momentary contemplation.

But, in order for the GMC to parade their incompetence for all to see, they had to receive a complaint. Which means that someone had to make this bizarre complaint in the first place.

Surely, the criticism and ridicule currently being leveled at the GMC must be at least as applicable to this person, if not more so - after all, it was they who, for whatever unfathomable reason, initially devised this strangely illogical complaint.

So who was the person who thought that a doctor's freedom to link to a publicly available document was something that her professional body could - and should - interfere with? According to Dr Pal's blog, the complainant with these highly unusual misconceptions was a person called Penny Mellor.

A little research shows that Mellor is no stranger to controversy, and, more specifically, to complaints. Journalist Jonathan Gornall has collected a wealth of fascinating information on this woman and her antics on his website, but perhaps one of the most instructive is this article, reproduced from Hospital Doctor (the original appears to be offline at the time of writing - I wonder why!).

The entire article is well worthy of detailed study, but the following paragraph struck me as particularly interesting in the context of her complaint against Dr Pal:

"One thing that is certain, however, is that Mrs Mellor is, indeed, tireless: in addition to the GHC and assorted NHS Trusts, over the past six or seven years she has complained to everyone from the RCPCH, the Central Council for Nursing, social services and the police to the NHS Executive, Chief Medical Officer, Health Minister and Prime Minister. Another certainty is that the media seems never to tire of being easily persuaded that inside every eminent doctor is a Harold Shipman waiting to be exposed."

Tireless, indeed, and perhaps a little tiresome, too. Certainly, His Honour Judge Whitburn thought so, when he sentenced Penny Mellor to a year in the slammer for her part in "a wicked conspiracy to abduct [A Child] in February 1999." In passing sentence, he said: "Impervious to debate, convinced you are right, you have traduced, complained about and harried dedicated professional people working in this difficult area [Child Protection]. I do not punish you for that, let me make it clear, however tiresome and eccentric your views are, the toleration afforded to you who expressed them, by those who hear them, is part of the price we gladly pay for living in a liberal democracy."

Quite. Plus, of course, there's the entertainment factor to consider. There's nothing funny about abducting a child, but some of her other antics can't fail to raise a smile - although, I suspect, Mellor doesn't intend to cause hilarity with her actions.

This complaint against Dr Pal is a cracking example, her complaint about Dr Pal's websites to Tucows Inc is another. Dr Pal's webmaster, James Landon, puts it far better than I ever could in his article, Penny Mellor, MSBP Campaigner, in Domain Name Bungle, but broadly it goes something like this:

Apparently getting her knickers in a twist over criticisms on the NHS Exposed Blog, which lives on Blogger, Mellor found out that the domain name nhsexposed.com was registered via Tucows. Note, they're only the domain registrar, not the company that hosts the actual website, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the blog.

It seems from Landon's article that Mellor promptly bussled off to Tucows to complain. I have considerably difficulty in following the logic behind this decision - possibly because tears of laughter are rolling down my cheeks as I type. Certainly, I cannot imagine why anyone would think that a domain name registrar would give a damn about material published on a blog utterly unrelated to the domain the registered.

Come to that, I can't see them being overly interested in what happens on the site that really does belong to the domain, either - it's just not their business to know or care about these things.

Still, it obviously seemed like a good idea at the time to Mellor, just as this outlandish complaint to the GMC about linking to publicly available documents must have done - can't imagine why, but hey, there's one born every minute!

So, to summarise this already brief snapshot of the woman who stared this whole thing, we have a convicted felon and mega-complainer who can't seem to tell the difference between one website and another. Just the sort of person the GMC should take seriously when they bring an illogical complaint about a blogger linking to a public document, don't you think?

The GMC obviously did, but then, as I've said before, the world's gone mad!

Billy Seggars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just spotted this one. Excellent summary.

Thanks a million for featuring it.

Rita Pal