by Paul Goodman FAMILY campaigner Victoria Gillick has taken action against a Birmingham family planning doctor, accusing her of breaking medical guidelines governing the treatment of pregnant teenagers.
Mrs Gillick, the Catholic mother of 10 best known for her championing of parents' rights, claims that Dr Rosemary Birkill, who chairs a city-wide group of Brook Advisory Centre doctors, is in breach of the General Medical Council's (GMC) guidelines for the medical profession. She has also declared that her move is the start of a campaign "to stop Brook breaking the law". Her initiative was spurred by the charity's 1989-90 annual report, which reported that in 70 per cent of the 531 cases in which the pill was prescribed for those under 16, the client's family doctor was not told.
Mrs Gillick argued that Brook, by guaranteeing confidentiality in advance to teenage clients, is breaking its ethical obligation to inform clients' family doctors that treatment is being given, and points out that it is important for GPs to know if their patients are on the pill because of possible interaction with other drugs and antibiotics.
"I believe that Brook must be bound by the same ethical code as other doctors," she said.
She added that she reported the charity clinic last year, but has been forced to name Dr Birkhill because the GMC investigates individual cases rather than organisations.
The frequency with which Brook is prescribing the pill, and its advance pledge of confidentiality, may place it in breach of the law, she also claimed.
It was a 1985 Law Lords ruling, given after Mrs Gillick's legal campaign to prevent doctors from prescribing the pill to children without also informing their parents, that established the present legal guideliness. She said that the judgement laid out that parents should not be informed only under "very exceptional circumstances".
"It may seem ironic that I appear to be defending a judgement that partly ruled against me. However, I think it is vital that Brook which has never accepted the guidelines should observe the law," she said.