Leeds doctors ‘may appeal’
TWO LEEDS doctors who were given a formal warning by the General Medical Council over written comments they made about a local rabbi in 2004 have told the JC they may appeal against the verdict.
Consultant clinical pathologist Dr Julian Barth and his wife, Dr Claire Samuel, a Leeds GP, were given the warning by the GMC’s investigation committee just before the public holidays for using inappropriate medical terminology in a letter in which they claimed that Rabbi Daniel Levy, senior minister at the United Hebrew Congregation (UHC), suffered from a personality disorder. Unless it is rescinded, the warning remains on their records for five years.
Dr Barth, an executive member of the UHC, and Dr Samuel, who taught the synagogue’s post-batmitzvah class, claim that, soon after Rabbi Levy’s appointment to UHC in 2001, they observed what they say was troubling behaviour by Rabbi Levy, culminating in what they claim was “inappropriate conduct” towards another rabbi in December 2003. A subsequent informal conversation with a senior clinical psychologist led both doctors to conclude that Rabbi Levy suffered “Personality Disorder DSM 1V”.
The letter stating this conclusion was written in 2004 by Dr Barth and Dr Samuel, and was delivered to Geoffrey Skolnick, then president of the UHC.
After being made aware of the letter, Rabbi Levy’s legal advisers gave the doctors two weeks to retract their statement. After they failed to do so, Rabbi Levy complained to the GMC on April 18 2005. He considered the letter inaccurate and was unhappy that a diagnosis on his health had been made without reference to him or his medical history.
UHC president Jonathan Rose declined to comment on the proceedings. He told the JC: “I understand that there may be a legal challenge to the GMC’s decision. In those circumstances it would be inappropriate for me as president of the UHC to comment on the GMC proceedings or their outcome.”
Dr Barth told the JC: “Advisers are exploring all available options. Investigations into various aspects of the case continue.”
The Leeds Jewish community seems to be split between sympathy for the doctors and sympathy for Rabbi Levy, who is currently on a sabbatical from the synagogue. He has spent time in Israel studying, and is now back in the UK, lecturing and writing.
One UHC member, who asked not to be named, said: “I fully respect Rabbi Levy. He has done a lot of good in the community. While appreciating that the doctors’ concerns were genuine, I agree with the GMC that they should not have expressed a medical opinion without an examination.”
Another UHC member told the JC: “The whole situation is very sad, but I am glad the Barths have, unintentionally, brought the matter about the rabbi into the public domain. It needed saying. Nevertheless, I feel great sympathy for Rabbi Levy.”
A former member of the UHC who spoke to the JC but wished not to be named said: “Rabbi Levy is a theological intellectual and thoroughly versed in halachic matters. What he says and does comes firmly from the teachings of the Torah. Often this does not go down well with some members of the Leeds community who see his behaviour as extreme.”