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The BBC's Stephen Cape
"This investigation is expected to last for many months"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Thorne
"There was no deliberate intention to kill the men"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 11:43 GMT
GP arrested over patient deaths

Police incident room
Police have set up an incident room to investigate


A doctor has been arrested by police in Cumbria on suspicion of the manslaughter of five of his patients.

Dr John Gordon, 50, was arrested on Monday and questioned for 12 hours before being released on police bail.

Dr Gordon worked on a methadone prescription scheme for drug abusers in the Carlisle area.

Detectives have confirmed the doctor was questioned about the possible manslaughter of five young men who died since January 1999. All were drug abusers.

Dr Gordon has been suspended by North Cumbria Health Authority and the General Medical Council had been informed


Detective Cheif Inspector Peter Kirkbride DCI Peter Kirkbride confirmed GP had been arrested
Cumbria police are awaiting the results of forensic tests.

They are considering the exhumation of at least two victims.

Police have confirmed that concerns centre on gross negligence in the prescription of methadone - a recognised heroin substitute.

They have ruled out suggestions that there was any deliberate intention to kill the men.

Officers said the inquiry was likely to be protracted.

North Cumbria Health Authority has said Dr Gordon has agreed not to return to practice while the police investigation is on-going.

Authority chief executive Robin MacLeod said: "In view of the police investigation and the authority's referral of the matter to the General Medical Council and the NHS tribunal, the doctor has agreed, on a voluntary basis, not to return to practice until the police investigations are complete.

"During this time the GP's partners will attend to the needs of his patients."



If a doctor is considered a risk to his patients then there are steps that can be taken to suspend him
General Medical Council spokesman
The General Medical Council, which governs the medical profession, said it was working closely with Cumbria police over the investigation into the doctor, whose medical registration could now be suspended.

A GMC spokesman said: "We are co-operating with the police and their inquiries. If a doctor is considered a risk to his patients then there are steps that can be taken to suspend him."

The Medical Protection Society, which is representing Dr Gordon, issued a statement which said: We confirm that Dr Gordon has been interviewed by police and is helping with their inquiries.

"He has cooperated fully and will continue to do so until their inquiries are complete."

Methadone

Methadone is used by heroin addicts as part of a programme to wean them off the drug.

The Standing Conference on Drug Abuse said an increasing number of methadone deaths in Britain over the past years had prompted the issue of new prescription guidelines to doctors.

Conference chief executive Roger Howard said there was concern that addicts were getting supplies of the drug and selling it on to people who were not hooked and had a lower tolerance level.

There had been other "infrequent" cases in which doctors had oversubscribed methadone.

It had happened when addicts left jail, their tolerance levels had fallen during their time inside, and they might have deceived doctors over their level of dependence.

Mr Howard said: "Those cases are fairly infrequent. A lot of people helping drug misusers have recognised that there needs to be greater clarity and consistency in how doctors prescribe.

"The doctors' guidelines come from the Chief Medical Officer and all doctors are supposed to adhere to these."

Methadone closely mimics the effects of heroin by binding itself to nerve receptors in the brain, satisfying the yearning for a "hit" but crucially without inducing the euphoric high of the real thing.

Thousands of doses are handed out at chemists' shops across the country every day, usually in the form of a lurid green liquid poured like cough mixture into a plastic cup and taken under the supervision of a pharmacist.

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See also:
22 Feb 00 |  J-M
Methadone factfile

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