I don’t intend to enter the contentious ‘smacking debate’… I am however struck by the contrast between the RACP’s anti-smacking stance and its promotion of the use of amphetamines to alter the behaviour of children, even pre-schoolers.
On Friday 24 July 2006 the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) issued a press release calling for “legal defences in Australia for the use of corporal punishment (to) be amended … (so) that all forms of corporal punishment are unlawful” (see Child health experts call for change on how we discipline our children). Predictably the call attracted extensive media coverage and generated impassioned polarised talkback radio.
The RACP’s release stated “research is increasingly showing that physical punishment may be harmful and children who receive physical punishment are at increased risk for a range of adverse outcomes both in childhood and as adults…These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressive or antisocial behaviour, substance use problems and abuse of their own children or spouse…While many children will not experience negative outcomes as a result of moderate or reasonable physical punishment, why put your child’s future health and emotional wellbeing at risk?”
I don’t intend to enter the contentious ‘smacking debate’, except to say that there is a significant difference between a light smack on your child’s backside designed to bring their attention to their poor behaviour and inflicting significant pain with a belt or other ‘weapon’. I am however struck by the contrast between the RACP’s anti-smacking stance and its promotion of the use of amphetamines to alter the behaviour of children, even pre-schoolers. The RACP took the lead role in producing and is continuing to promote discredited draft national ADHD treatment guidelines that relied on discredited and commercially corrupted research to promote the first line use of stimulants to treat ADHD.
The guidelines have never been endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) who paid the RACP $135,000 to develop them. The reason they were not endorsed according to the NHMRC is that “in July 2011 Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital sanctioned Professor Biederman and Drs. Spencer and Wilens (whose work is heavily cited throughout the Draft Guidelines) for failing to report their industry sponsored activities and subsequently violating their organisations’ conflict of interest policies.” (http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/ch54 accessed 26 July 2013) Biederman, Spencer and Wilens received millions in undisclosed drug company payments (see World leading ADHD ‘expert’ Harvard Professor Joseph Biederman sanctioned over hidden drug company money ).
However, these were not the only conflict of interest issues to dog the RACP ADHD guidelines process. Most of the members of the RACP committee who developed the guidelines had commercial ties to ADHD drug manufacturers that were only disclosed through ‘Freedom of Information’ processes and the RACP itself has received sponsorship from the same companies. (see One year on from the release of the corrupted National ADHD Guidelines ).
Nonetheless the RACP website continues to promote the discredited guidelines stating “the RACP has conducted a thorough and careful process to develop the updated draft Guidelines and believes that these Guidelines will assist in improving the assessment, treatment and care of people with ADHD in Australia.” (http://www.racp.edu.au/index.cfm?objectid=393DD54A-04C5-85AC-B35FE82BA4849595 accessed 26 July 2013)
Regardless of the merits of their anti-smacking stance, the RACP would have more credibility when expressing concern about parenting and child welfare if they got their own house in order.