A retired GP has been suspended from the BMA Welsh Council until 2014 after he questioned the evidence behind the BMA’s campaign to ban smoking in vehicles on BBC Radio.
Dr Brendan O’Reilly, a retired GP, has also had his BMA membership suspended until he provides ‘an acceptable written apology’ to four named BMA members, including Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA science and ethics committee.
In a hearing held yesterday a BMA Council panel said they considered Dr O’Reilly’s language when describing his opposition to the BMA’s use of statistics on the risks of passive smoking in cars as ‘unacceptable’.
But Dr O’Reilly said he was being ‘harangued’ by the BMA for simply expressing a difference of opinion.
Dr O’Reilly spoke on the Jason Mohammed BBC Radio Wales show alongside Dr Sharon Blackford, chair of the Welsh Consultants Committee.
Among figures questioned by Dr O’Reilly was a statistic that children in cars are exposed to 23 times more toxins than people in a smoky bar.
In its determination, the BMA admitted it did, at a later stage, have to publicly revise some of the data in its briefing paper Smoking in Vehicles. But it said Dr O’Reilly’s use of the term manipulation was ‘detrimental to the honour and interest of the BMA’.
The panel also said it found ‘unacceptable’ a comparison made by Dr O’Reilly between ‘the statement of Dr Vivienne Nathanson and the dossier that allegedly led to the Iraq War’.
The panel said in identifying himself as a member of BMA Wales Council he should have ‘conducted himself in accordance with the duties expected of a member’.
Dr O’Reilly, who did not attend the hearing, told Pulse he did not put himself forward in the media as a representative of the BMA and he believed that the public were being misled on the dangers of smoking in cars.
‘I would not have gone on the radio over something trivial,’ he said.
‘But no one listening to the show would have thought for a second I was representing the BMA.’
He did declare himself as a member of BMA Wales Council in order to be upfront, he said.
‘BMA members should be able to debate differences in opinion without being threatened or harangued for doing so,’ he added. ‘There is a massive issue here about free speech.’
A BMA spokesperson refused to discuss the case, but said: ‘The BMA has a procedure for dealing with alleged misconduct by members.
‘If, following a hearing, misconduct is proven, the panel has a wide range of powers including suspension from membership and/or offices held by a member.’