July 15, 2008

Hearing Told of Patient A’s Wish to End Her Life and Not Be a Burden GP is Accused of Giving Woman of 87 Drugs to Kill Herself


SHE was described as being unhappy with her quality of life and her level of mobility, yet she also played bridge with friends and talked about going on holiday, according to the evidence submitted to a General Medical Council hearing yesterday.

In fact, the 87-year-old patient at the centre of the case against Glasgow GP Dr Iain Kerr was "quite an independent lady for her age".

Her private carer, known as Jacqueline White, went shopping with her for clothes and other items and chatted to her about her granddaughter going to university and about her son getting engaged.

She was not confused or muddled, but very clear of mind, Ms White told the GMC.

But, the hearing was also told, the 87-year-old (referred to as Patient A) talked of taking her own life so she would not be a burden on her family as she aged.

"Those views she mentioned to me for quite a while and I can tell you I was not the only one she would mention that to, " Ms White said. "There were other people like friends and even the cleaner."

Tablets which Dr Kerr is accused of prescribing to Patient A in 1998 so she could end her life were disposed of, the hearing was told.

However, Ms White confirmed that she asked her for help to commit suicide more recently, requesting that she fetch a large plastic bag from a dry cleaners which she planned to put over her head after taking sleeping pills.

She also told the carer that she had got some information from the Euthanasia Society.

Ms White refused to supply the bag, noting that she really did not believe Patient A would take such action.

Asked if she knew how people had reacted to Patient A's talk of ending her life, Ms White described one woman being quite taken aback. This woman, whom Ms White also cared for, was friendly with Patient A and said to be more disabled than her.

On November 29, 2005, Dr Kerr was called to Patient A's home as she was difficult to rouse.

The GMC alleges that the GP recorded an overdose of temazepam, but did not refer her to hospital or make a physical assessment of her.

Two days later, the panel was told, Dr Kerr prescribed more temazepam for the elderly woman - with 28 tablets intended as a "rescue" if she lost those she used routinely.

In the days that followed Ms White recalled Patient A being upset that she had not succeeded in her suicide bid. Over coffee, the 87- year-old talked about being sad about the failure, but also asked Ms White if she would go away with her on holiday.

"I didn't believe for one minute that she was going to try to do that again, " Ms White told the hearing.

Three days later, on December 12, 2005, Patient A was found dead at her home. A post-mortem concluded that her death was due to temazepam, cyclizine and co-proxamol intoxication.

Ms White said: "I drove by the flat where she stayed and saw some activity there that made me think, 'Oh my goodness, she hasn't tried it again'."

The carer, who trained as a nurse, had accompanied Patient A during her visits to the GP.

Michael Mylonas, counsel for Dr Kerr, asked Ms White about her impressions of Dr Kerr, and she agreed Patient A considered him "a great doctor".

She also said he had definitely not encouraged her to end her life.

"Patient A didn't give me that opinion, " she said. "Dr Kerr didn't in any way encourage her or didn't say much to encourage her to do anything like that."

Dr Kerr is still practising in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area under conditions.

The hearing continues.

Poem shows move to acceptance This is the text of the poem which was hanging on the wall of Dr Kerr's surgery at Williamwood Medical Centre in Clarkston.

Charade by Betty Roddie We must all die. Though true This dying is no time for platitude. "God's will, " or "He'll be happier now." All lies. We comfort and console the living And make believe that this is so. "You will be better soon, " we say While he lies there with the pain and the knowing We talk of the farm and spring he will not see And waste this precious time together. Our words of love are left unsaid. Our sense of loss, already felt, will not be spoken. Why send him to his lonely grave without a sign of it? What use are bloody flowers?

. Betty Roddie, the wife of physiologist Ian Roddie, died in 1974 aged 39 of breast cancer. Her poems give an insight into how she came to terms with personal disaster. They illustrate with poignancy the journey she travelled from initial defiance through acquiescence to final acceptance. They were published in the British Medical Journal in 1998.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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