Woods found guilty of professional misconduct in abuse cases


Dr Moira Woods has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Committee, The Irish Times has learned. This relates to her diagnosis of sexual abuse of children in three families in the 1980s.

Allegations of professional misconduct in relation to members of two other families who also complained to the Medical Council were found not to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The report of the Fitness to Practise Committee of the Medical Council, which will go to a full meeting of the council next Tuesday, does not recommend striking Dr Woods off the register of medical practitioners.

However, it does recommend censure and the attachment of a number of conditions to Dr Woods continuing in practice. These conditions can be varied by the Medical Council when it meets next week. Dr Woods can appeal the finding, which was by a majority of the committee, to the High Court.

The inquiry has been going on for five years. It is the longest fitness to practise inquiry in the history of the Medical Council, and has already been the subject of one High Court action on the issue of confidentiality. As a result of this action the hearings took place in camera.

The case began in 1997, when members of five families brought complaints against Dr Woods who had found that the fathers had sexually abused children in their families. These findings were passed on to the appropriate health boards or, in some cases, used in court proceedings. In one case the children were taken into care, but were later returned to their parents. In some other cases the parents separated, or were in the process of separating when the allegations were brought forward.

The complaints concern investigations carried out by Dr Woods, who at the time was head of the Sexual Assault Trauma Unit in the Rotunda Hospital. Although set up to deal with adult victims of sexual abuse, it quickly became overwhelmed with child alleged victims. Many hundreds of children were seen there by Dr Woods in the late 1980s, 600 in 1987 alone.

The majority of the Fitness to Practise Committee has found that the protocols recommended by international experts at that time, and adopted by the SATU, were not followed in a number of the cases. It also found that the appropriate approach to validation was not adopted, that, in certain cases, Dr Woods failed to gather all the evidence that was available and in others failed to review cases or findings.

Five allegations were laid against her; alleging she failed to apply the necessary standards of judgment and competence in relation to some or all of 11 children, failed to act in their best interests and acted in a manner derogatory to the reputation of the medical profession.

All the allegations were upheld in relation to certain of the children. However, they were not upheld in relation to five children from one family and one from another.

Among the conditions the Fitness to Practise Committee proposes be attached to Dr Woods's continuing in practice are that she must undergo retraining and professional development, and that she only engage in this type of work as part of an expert multi-disciplinary team.