It has all the makings of an epic drama. The UK's main body overseeing the medical profession, the General Medical Council (GMC), is under siege. Attacked by the public for negligence over a series of high profile cases, distrusted by many inside the profession, and criticised by eminent observers such as the editor of The Lancet, the Council enters 2001 fighting for its life.

Specific cases include a doctor who was convicted of sexual abuse but was allowed by the GMC to continue practising while under investigation. Recent cases of fraudulent research work have come to light, with the GMC failing to take any action, despite giving written assurances that it would act.

Spearheading the campaign to reform the council is Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. "The GMC has screwed up," he says bluntly. "But there is a terrible split in the medical community about what should...

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