From time to time, parents of my young patients ask me about news reports they have seen when searching for my name on the internet.
The headlines of the reports give the impression that I am an advocate for corporal punishment as a way of disciplining children. People, including parents, who know me, know that this is not true. I am not, nor have I ever been, a supporter of corporal punishment as a way of disciplining children.
I am upset and disheartened that people who do not know me might be led to believe that I think hitting children is effective discipline.
It isn’t. That’s why I do not recommend it.
The news reports relate to a case in the State Administrative Tribunal four years ago. In relation to the case reported, it is true that I made a comment in a therapeutic setting that I ought not to have made. The Tribunal disciplined me and fined me for that comment, and I accept that outcome without reservation.
It is true the Tribunal did conclude it was possible that the words I used could have been misinterpreted (i.e. taken literally rather than as a metaphor). The Tribunal found that the expression I used, notwithstanding it was a metaphor, could still be interpreted as a recommendation to use physical punishment above a reasonable level. However, the Tribunal also found that no reasonable person would have interpreted the words literally and it did not accept or find that I ever intended the words to be taken literally.
I accept that I should have recognised that the words used could have been interpreted differently from that which I intended. I also accept that, at the time, I should have considered the possible consequences of those different interpretations as well. As a doctor, I agree I am and must be accountable for my actions.
However, I was hurt and dismayed to see some news media reports suggesting I recommended to the parents to hit their children. This is not correct. For example –
“WA paediatrician who recommended beatings for twin boys suffering from ADHD found guilty of misconduct”
The headline suggests that I knowingly recommended beating children. That was not the Tribunal’s finding. I would never say something of this nature in a literal sense, and I repeat I am not an advocate for corporal punishment of children, nor have I ever been.
Dr David Roberts