July 26, 2008

GP Gave Patient Pills for Suicide

A GP who gave sleeping pills to an elderly patient so she could commit suicide said yesterday he "regretted the circumstances" which resulted in his censure by the General Medical Council.

Dr Iain Kerr, 61, was suspended from practising medicine for six months for prescribing sodiumamytal to a retired businesswoman after she told him she had considered suicide.

John Donnelly, chairman of the GMC Fitness to Practise Panel, told the doctor he had allowed his views on physician-assisted suicide to influence his treatment of the woman known as Patient A.

He said: "You made a serious misjudgement and embarked on a potentially criminal act."

The Glasgow GP also prescribed sleeping pills to five other elderly patients.

Mr Donnelly said the four aggravating features of the case were the fact he had prescribed sodiumamytal to Patient A so she could end her life, that he did not admit her to hospital or make appropriate notes after she took a Temazepam overdose, and that he prescribed her with more Temazepam following her overdose.

He also failed to make a record or adhere to guidance in giving reasons for prescribing sodiumamytal.

The nine-day hearing in Manchester was toldDrKerr prescribed 30 sodium a mytal pills to Patient A in 1998 after she told him she had considered suicide.

Dr Kerr said the sleeping pills were an "insurance policy" for PatientAand she disposed of them before overdosing on Temazepam in December 2005. On this occasion Dr Kerr did not refer her to hospital and three days later prescribed her with more Temazepam. She killed herself 11 days later, aged87, using a cocktail of Temazepam, antihistamines and painkillers.

Patient A was an osteoporosis sufferer who feared becoming a burden upon her family and held Dr Kerr in high regard, her son told the GMC.

Dr Kerr, who had a surgery at the Williamwood Medical Centre in Clarkston, Glasgow, for 30 years, prescribed sodium amytal pills to five other patients, despite the fact four did not suffer from insomnia. Guidelines stated the pills should be usedto treat only"severe and intractable insomnia".

He revealed his views on physician-assisted suicide at an appraisal. His confession resulted in an investigation by local health authorities and Strathclyde Police, who took no action against him after finding there was insufficient evidence.

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