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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK


Massive morphine levels found in cancer patient

Dr David Moor is accused of murder

A terminally ill cancer patient allegedly murdered by his GP was found to have morphine levels in his body high enough to have killed a fit, healthy young man, a court has heard.

Home Office pathologist Dr James Sunter was giving evidence at the trial of Northumberland GP Dr David Moor, who is accused of murdering 85-year-old retired ambulanceman George Liddell on 19 July 1997 by administering a lethal dose of diamorphine.

Dr Moor has maintained that he never intended to end Mr Liddell's life but only tried to ease his pain.

Mr Liddell, who had been discharged from hospital after surgery for bowel cancer, was staying with his daughter Doreen Ryan and her husband Anthony at their home in Fenham, Newcastle.

The court has heard that Moor, the couple's GP, was called to their home because Mr Liddell was "crying out in agony" and then allegedly injected him with the diamorphine.

Dr Moor, 52, of Stamfordham, Northumberland, has denied the charge and his trial at Newcastle Crown Court is expected to run until the middle of May.

He was arrested by police after publicly airing views on euthanasia and claiming not "to have a problem" with helping patients die peaceful deaths.

During one conversation with an NHS public relations executive he was said to have claimed to have helped up to 300 patients die.

Post mortem examination

A post mortem examination was carried out by Dr Sunter days after the death when he was called in by Northumbria Police to examine the body.

He later gave the cause of death as opiate poisoning.

He told the court on Thursday that Mr Liddell had a series of health problems, none of which would have contributed to his death.

Dr Sunter said: "The overdose could have proved fatal in a fit and healthy young person lacking any sign of the several smaller diseases suffered by the deceased.

"In view of the unusually high level of morphine later found on toxicological analysis and the other medical facts, there can be no doubt that death was due to opiate poisoning."

The court has heard that diamorphine is an accepted painkiller and that, once inside the body, it breaks down into morphine.

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