This space is dedicated to comments of colleagues and friends who were keen to express their observations about the unfolding of the legal events. The content solely expresses the views and opinions of their authors.
Dr Zander FRCGP was a principal in General Practice for 40 yrs and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Primary Care at St Thomas’s, Guy’s and King’s Hospital Medical Schools, London. Particular interests included medical ethics, patient autonomy in the field of maternity care, the doctor patient relationship and interprofessional co-operation, on all of which he has written extensively. He was the founder of the multidisciplinary Forum on Maternity and the Newborn at the Royal Society of Medicine, and is a past President of the Section of General Practice at the RSM.
As someone who has spent 40 years as a medical practitioner, engaged in both clinical care and the teaching of students and young doctors about medical ethics and the importance and essence of the doctor-patient relationship, I have followed the events of the past 4 years with both great concern and incredulity,. and like many others who know Philipp Bonhoeffer well, feel that there has been gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of his actions. It is for this reason that I have felt emboldened to express my thoughts about what has transpired.
I have known Philipp Bonhoeffer for more than 45 years , and the friendship between our respective families extends over several generations. As a result, I have come to know him and his background exceedingly well. It might be suggested that this prevents me from judging the events objectively. I suggest it is very much the opposite.
Philipp Bonhoeffer is a rare person with great intellectual and humanitarian qualities, which combined together, have brought him very considerable professional distinction , both as a provider of personal care, as a highly creative thinker , and as someone responsible for enhancing the work and performance of others. He is a man with great warmth , who relates very easily to other people, and he has an openness and naturalness of manner that is noteworthy. A further significant and valued characteristic of his personality is his idealism and his generosity of spirit which have been so much in evidence as underpinning his work in the Third World.
His love of Kenya and its people , and his wish to provide help to those living in a very disadvantaged part of the world, have for a long time been clearly apparent to all who know him well. His close involvement with a number of young people in that setting sprung from his provision of life saving procedures for them through the use of a technique which he developed , and for which he has received international acclaim. This medical curative role was followed subsequently in a number of instances by a willingness to continue to provide help of a humane and financial nature to support them in their efforts to rebuild their lives.
This generosity of spirit was indeed remarkable to observe, as it involved him in very considerable and continuing personal effort over a long period of time, quite apart from the very significant financial obligations that he undertook on their behalf, in order to allow them to follow their further educational objectives.
It is not difficult to imagine why others , less well acquainted with the context in which this was being undertaken, the nature of the setting in which he was working and living, and the human dimension of the inter relationships involved, might have considerable difficulty in fully appreciating and assessing its validity, and arrive at a false and highly damaging interpretation of what they perceived to be taking place. It is also possible that there were other, more personal and perhaps less altruistic reasons, to explain the way in which the events proceeded.
The saga that ended with PB being deprived by the GMC of his medical registration , and therefore his ability to practice medicine in the UK, has had many far reaching repercussions and implications, and raises very important questions.
For Professor Bonhoeffer, his personal and professional life has been gravely and permanently effected. His internationally renowned contribution to the practice of cardiology, of particular relevance to the 3rd world, has been brought to a premature end, and for many Kenyan patients, the opportunity for them to receive life saving treatment has been taken away, with devastating consequences. Many Kenyon doctors have lost their opportunity for valuable continued medical education. Outside Kenya, precious innovative lines of research have been impaired, and many projects brought to a halt. Very significant research funds and academic advancement have been lost to the world famous hospital at which Professor Bonhoeffer was a leading figure, and a very considerable cost expended by the GMC, largely contributed to by two unsuccessful appearances at the High Court.
We are living at a time when extraordinary attention is being given to the issue of sexual harassment , particularly when it concerns children, and, few would deny that it is right that every effort is made to assess all incidents of supposed inappropriate behaviour. This has never been in question. How this task is undertaken is however of utmost importance. There is a fundamental difference between life-enhancing caring behaviour and life –diminishing victimising activity ,although this difference is not always discerned by those purporting to act in the best interests of the children. In the situation of Philipp Bonhoeffer , it is notable that all those who it is claimed have been subject to victimisation, have in fact stressed the caring, supportive nature of their relationship with Philipp. Any supposed victims are indeed notable by their absence .
The principal accusations made against Philipp stemmed from just one source, an individual known to be an unreliable witness and to have a personal antagonism towards PB. The GMC did not feel it incumbent on them to attempt to corroborate his account of events from the individuals said to have been victimised, who on the contrary have adamantly refuted his accusations.
It is noteworthy that the police , who undertook an extensive investigation in Kenya, which resulted in no charges being made, claimed subsequently that all the records of their interviews with the young people had surprisingly been lost. As a result , no details of their statements were available for consideration.
The actual events that were supposed to have taken place, and were listed in the Panel’s judgement, could be considered to have been inappropriate, if not judged in their appropriate context, but could hardly be described as being in themselves of such extraordinary gravity as to justify the comments made about them, or the manner in which they have been interpreted. .
Considering the many disturbing facets of this much publicised and hugely damaging case , I seriously ask , what are the parameters by which we are to judge the statement “acting in the public’s best interest” , and what are we are reasonably entitled to expect from the organisation charged with the dual responsibility of protecting the interests of both the public and the members of our profession?
Christian Brizard is a pediatric cardiac surgeon, French and Australian. Born and trained in Paris. He has left France for Melbourne, Australia in 1995 where he is the Director of the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Christian Brizard is an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne. He has research and humanitarian activities.
Philipp B. is a very close friend of mine and of my family ever since we met 20 years ago. He is the godfather of one of my children. My friendship goes far beyond my admiration for his multiple talents and his intelligence or our involvement in the same field of medicine. Philipp is a genuinely caring and dependable man and most importantly a trusting person.
One can only be impressed at the number of projects, programs, career moves and endeavors Philipp has successfully completed in a short number of years. His ability to trust people and empower them has been essential in these achievements. This personal trait also makes him vulnerable and has played a defining role in this tragedy.
Since the very day in 2008 when Philipp was removed from his office at Great Ormond Street Hospital my family and I have feared for Philipp’s reputation, for his career and eventually for his life. Since that day we have grown more and more infuriated at the unfairness of the process Philipp has been submitted to.
My name has been mentioned in the police report log, therefore, I am aware that the police inquiry contains factual errors, at least in the part where I have been mentioned. In 2001, my wife and I spent several days with Philipp in Kenya, with some members of my hospital team and two young men who have been supported by Philipp for many years, one of whom is his accuser. This was precisely when some of the facts were supposed to have occurred. I would say that it would be impossible that this young adult man cheerful, chatty with a bright smile was being abused or had suffered from abuse from Philipp in the past. I know for a fact that this same young man has later set up with a colleague of his, a fake foundation in order to attract donations from Westerners. They eventually pocketed the money collected.
Because I know Philipp very well and we have always been very close but also because of the above, I know that Philipp is innocent of any wrongdoing. I have however, understood with sadness his decision to withdraw from his case and to stop being represented at the GMC hearing.
Philipp felt that he had lost forever the desire to work again at the GOS hospital or elsewhere in the UK. Despite the evidence that the GMC panel had been judged unfit and biased by the High Court to evaluate the alleged wrongdoings attributed to Philipp, the GMC had confirmed its willingness to proceed to the hearing. Instead of providing to Philipp the desire and determination to continue to defend his case, this was the omen of a very long, extremely expensive battle with many chapters to come. With each of these episodes, would have come the prospect of further vilifying exposure in the UK press and of great personal torment.
It must have required extreme insight, great intelligence and tremendous courage to Philipp to come to this decision.
By withdrawing from his case and declining any legal representation, Philipp offered the GMC the opportunity to have a rapid, tactful administrative decision. Instead of that, the GMC, with its biased and unfit panel, without any acknowledgement that the panel did not call defense witnesses or proceed to any cross examination of the single witness, and in spite of the fact that never, during the investigation and during the hearing was any violent behavior, sexual or otherwise attributed to Philipp, the GMC took upon itself to have a messianic role, publish farfetched conclusions and distribute them to the press and around the world.
Philipp’s story is a tragedy on many levels:
Philipp’s assistance has transformed the fate and lives of the young he has sponsored. It is extraordinary to see these people become adults, armed with a higher education degree, founding a stable family and set up for a productive life. Now that this GMC story is finished, ironically, Philipp will most likely continue supporting new children. Philipp has lost his profession by doing so, almost his life. Some people are convinced, forever probably, that by reporting second hand gossip and personal interpretation, they have done justice and saved the children from the grasp of an evil man.
Allen Tower, President NuMed Inc
In my 50 plus years of manufacturing cardiovascular catheters Philipp Bonhoeffer is one of the few Drs. that I have worked with that has made such a huge difference in the heart health of children all over the world. I met Philipp 22 years ago and had an exciting and productive working relationship from the first day I met him. Philipp and I simply don’t care about money. What drives us is to bring new health opportunities to children world wide. Together we have done this. Philipp has devoted his life to helping children in Africa and the world and I am very privileged to know him. He has given me the opportunity to get involved and do what I believe is very important work. I have a very hard time trying to understand why there are people that are trying to destroy everything he has worked so hard for. Whoever has done this has taken one of the most precious members out of this profession of Pediatric Cardiology. This is a tragedy for everyone, especially the patients he has helped everywhere. How could people allow this to happen.
Daniel Sidi, Pr. University Paris V and Head of the division
President of the board of ICOR (heart institute in Mozambique)
Vice président of Chaine de l’espoir (1995-2008)
Board of Chain of Hope (1997-2004)
Board of OSE (Organisation Secours Enfants, Help to the children in Paris)
Chevallier de la légion d’Honneur 2002
I already sent a letter to the attorney of Philipp Bonhoeffer 3 years ago (see here) to tell my conviction on his innocence
I must say that what Philipp has been through during the last years and even more recently by the ignoble popular Press is more than unacceptable, it is scandalous.
I do regret that Philipp and his attorneys did not fight against the GMC “trial”, but I do understand that after 3 years and with each time this exposure to the British press he only wonted to stop this nightmare
The world congress was a fantastic opportunity for the Pediatric Cardiology Community to show their solidarity to Philipp and respect the human rights saying that any individual should be considered innocent as long as he is not proofed to be guilty.
As I said in the document I sent in 2009, I am so convinced of Philipp’s innocence that I would with no fear at all ask him and let him take care of my grand children as he did 20 years ago with my children.
I could see during the 12 years we spent together the great benefit he can give by his humanity. He has indeed an intellectual affinity with the children and like “Montaigne” great capacities to help them (intellectually and if necessary financially) to choose and find their ways in this difficult world. What he did in Kenya was marvellous to a point that the UK people considered it as suspicious. Philipp is just a very human and generous man who puts his ideology above material considerations. Just difficult to understand for the British.
I consider what happened to Philipp the worst ignominy that I encountered in my all life.
Dr Christine Yuko-Jowi, Senior Lecturer- Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Nairobi, Pediatrician and Pediatric Cardiologist
I remember with pride in November 1991 when the then young Dr. Philipp held my scared hands and told me “Dr Jowi, this is the way to hold an ultrasound probe”. Now I keep reminding my students-“this is the way to hold the ultrasound probe, Philipp taught me so”. During a difficult mitral dilatation I have always reminded my colleagues the manouveres Philipp did to enter into a tight mitral valve and it works!
He completely transformed the face of not only Paediatric cardiology but Cardiology in general in Kenya, and also within the region. Philipp worked hard for us, from the airport he hardly had time to settle down because a queue of very difficult and strange pathology was waiting for him and he never turned down any patient who he believed needed help. He would work late into the night and would still be the first person to be in the catheterization lab the next day.
Philipp is a family man and to date all our families, nuclear and extended know, love and adore him. After he came to visit my parents in the Lambwe valley and brought his parents along to visit us and view the rare Roan antelopes.
From Philipp we have also learnt to adopt and care for needy children wholeheartedly the way he does it.
So many grateful faces are alive because of him, so many doctors young and old can carry out procedures because of his talent. So many catheterization labs are “in existence” in Nairobi because he instilled in us the need for accurate diagnosis and safe treatment of patients.
When the case against Philipp came up, ” I was certain that” the accusations were false and baseless.
I was upset that L (the English charity worker) made numerous and frantic phone calls to me asking that I present myself to speak against Philipp to the British Police. An invitation which I declined because there was nothing to say against him.
As a Paediatrician, and a mother of three children who also fosters seven children, I have been with Philipp and his colleagues during “his many” visits, and I have never witnessed him abuse any “of the” Kenyan Children, “all of whom I know very well. I am certain that nothing significant or harmful could have taken place without me being aware of it. Some of them considered me as a second mom.”
It is worth noting that the list of favors to the children who were being sponsored by Philip , from L through the Charity remains suspect, especially those that were made after the saga started.
In Africa- there is a saying that goes “Truth never rots, and it will come out clean” .
Take heart Prof Bonhoeffer.
For protection of privacy Philipp Bonhoeffer advised the Kenyan students not to disclose their full identity in this setting. Bazil Alphonce Ouma wished to do otherwise and his desire was respected. The two younger brothers mentioned in the comment of Victor were protected by the family to reduce psychological trauma during the unfolding of the events. For this reason they were also not asked to make a contribution in this setting. Finally, one of the students passed away in a tragic accident in 2012.
It is my pleasure to introduce my self as Bazil, also marked as a witness. A person that was helped by the gifted hands and heart of a noble man. My dear GMC, you have just dragged the man out of the cath lab. You are not only killing a man but you are in deed killing so many children, children that are sick, children with heart failure. This man dedicated his life to his work and to the cath lab.
If anyone was really interested in knowing the truth about Philipp, then it could be better to ask all members of the little family, the patients. From my own perspective the judgment was made without proper investigation. What amazed me, the evidence was solely collected from statements from witness A, while we the remaining lot were never contacted despite the GMC having access to us both by mail and phone. To know more of this story, contact me on, email@example.com
l Evansone, have met Philipp in 2004 and he has simply changed my life giving me opportunities I would not have dreamt of before.
I was shocked when the case started against him. When that happened I lost everything. I lost him as my mentor, I could not start university, I lost the person taking care of my health and I was in severe health crises.
During the investigation time I met G (the English police officer) and L ( the English charity worker) together with Bazil at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi for lunch. This was the briefing of the interview. It was at that time that I was offered educational opportunities if I spoke against Philipp. I felt that the investigation was suspicious. Why did L accompany the police coming all the way from England when she was the accuser? Why was a foreign police officer armed to come and interview us. Under these conditions I decided that there was no way that I would go to the interview without making my personal recording. G did not know about that. During the interview I was threatened by the English police officers. They stated that I was committing a crime if I did not speak against Philipp and told me that I would never see him again. G had a pistol on his waist even during the interview. I did not speak against Philipp because it would have been immoral and unfair.
After a few months I was contacted by Philipp’s lawyer. I had given him my recordings. Surprisingly he found that the transcripts of the interviews of the English police were altered. They did not correspond with my recordings. I am sure this is why the police recordings “got lost”. The dumb thing about the interview was that these people had a fixed mind.
The next step was that my closest relative was offered a job in the UK if she could make me speak against Philipp but we did not engage into this. I have heart disease and I was getting sick. I was told that Philipp would never take care of me again and the people who wanted to make me speak offered me treatment after they told me that nobody else would help me. This was the same person from the charity who accused Philipp. She is not a doctor. She wanted me to go to the UK for heart surgery instead of previously agreed treatment by catheter decided by the medical board. This was unethical. They were gambling with my health which was intimidating.
This is the background to the story.
The one thing I am happy about is that I did stick to Philipp. I am sure that morally I did the right thing. God has helped me through these difficult times. Philipp is there for me again. He advises me for my academic development and he has also helped to sort my health issue. He is also a great dad figure.
It is very disappointing how people’s kindness is taken as a weakness.
It all started by L. (the english charity worker) and T (witness A) being close to me giving promises of different kinds. I din’t know what L. was up to until she went back to England. She later called me and told me that there was somebody who wanted to sponsor me and send me 160000 Ksh through a lady in Nairobi/Westlands. They told me to speak against Philipp but that never worked with me. Then I did not get the money.
When G. (the english police officer) came with his team to my home in Awendo they wanted us to take my younger brothers out of school in the middle of the day to talk to them immediately. We refused and offered them to talk when they were out of school. When they saw that we were not willing to make up stories against Philipp they lost their interest. G told me that if I was not careful I would end up behind bars with Philipp. Anyway they wanted to go to Kogello to see where the US presidents dad was from. They did not even wait to talk to my younger brothers.
I knew that they travelled with L who was with the team from england and when i asked if Philipp had a representative from England G told me that it was not a must.
A HEART FOR HEARTS
I met Philipp when I was 21 years of age in August 2005 while I was just starting university. He has since cared for me like a dad and I am for ever grateful for the role he has played in my life academically and above all in my development as a person.
Philipp’s story is very troubling. The allegations were made by T (Kenyan student) of whom everybody knows that he is a liar. This includes everybody involved in the story and in particular those who ran the investigation. The manner in which he colluded with the police, the GMC and L (the English charity worker) was most inhuman and unfair.
At the time this story begun, T was constructing a house and had abused Philipp’s resources. He needed more money to finish his construction project. Philipp did not know about this but I was in the uncomfortable position to know. Since T was already done with college Philipp was encouraging him to take up a job, but T knew that the salary he was going to get out of his job as a nurse was not sufficient to complete his project. In my opinion this was the turning point which led to Philipp’s drama. T at the time alleged that his mum was sick and that he needed money to have her airflown to a hospital for treatment. Philipp paid for this. Later I understood that all this was only part of his money extortion strategy and that his mother was never sick.
I remember how at the time T had changed drastically and acted weird towards Philipp, me or the rest of us students sponsored by Philipp. At one point Philipp even told me he did not understand what was going on with T. T then became very close to L in the August 2008 mission in Nairobi. The two were inseparable, little did we know that they were planning something evil against Pilipp. I know that L was attracted to Philipp and was not satisfied by him.
What I fail to understand is why people wanted to destroy Philipp.
I know him very, very well and all these allegations are simply not true.
The determination of T, L and her father to finish off Philipp was the ugliest human behavior I have witnessed in my life. Everybody who knows the role Philipp played in T’s life is shocked by this despicable and dishonest behaviour of his.
I feared for Philipp in spite of the fact that I know he is an enormously strong man. I admire the strength with which he went through the incredibly hard times with dignity and resilience. Thanks to the fact that he gave up his fight against the ridiculous accusations of the GMC he helped me to get back on track academically and made out of me the person who I am today. He had nothing to hide and did well in leaving nasty people have their way. In all honesty I knew that he had better things to do than to fight against people who do nothing but delay procedures and distort evidence. What troubles me is that so many patients who would have benefitted from him as a doctor have really lost out.
Sad to see that genuine generosity and humanity towards others was seen to be suspicious.