Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 17:30 UK

City GP faces 'euthanasia' probe

General Medical Council
The GMC's fitness to practice panel is hearing Dr Kerr's case in Manchester

A Glasgow GP is facing a professional inquiry after being accused of prescribing sleeping pills to enable an elderly patient to commit suicide.

Dr Iain Kerr, 61, is accused by the General Medical Council (GMC) of giving the 87-year-old woman sodium amytal against official guidance.

He also faces a further five cases of inappropriately prescribing patients the same sleeping pills.

The hearing before the GMC's fitness to practice panel in Manchester continues.

It is alleged that Dr Kerr supplied sodium amytal to the elderly woman, known as patient A, in 1998.

This was after she had expressed unhappiness with her quality of life and said she had considered suicide.

If people expressed anxiety about how the end would be, whether it would be painful or distressing, I would tell them I was a member of the Euthanasia Society
Dr Iain Kerr in police interview

He is also alleged to have supplied her with the drug so she should be able to end her own life, should she choose to do so.

The hearing was told that on 1 December, 2005, Dr Kerr prescribed temazepan to the woman despite a suspected failed suicide attempt two days before.

The woman was found dead at her home 11 days later. She had suffered an overdose of different drugs including temazepam.

The GMC panel was also told that in 2004 Dr Kerr told a colleague during an appraisal that he prescribed sodium amytal to patients so they could end their own lives under the right circumstances.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the panel heard excerpts from a Strathclyde Police interview with Dr Kerr three years ago.

It it, he admits to telling patients that he belonged to the Euthanasia Society.

He told police he lied about this "because it gives patients the choice of discussing end-of-life matters".

'Double effect'

During the interview, Dr Kerr said: "If people expressed anxiety about how the end would be, whether it would be painful or distressing, I would tell them I was a member of the Euthanasia Society, or had been, and leave it at that.

"If they decided that's good news, fine, and if they ignored it I would say that's fine as well."

He also explained to police the meaning of the words "double effect".

Dr Kerr said: "It's where the doctor gives a big dose of morphine and says 'I don't mean to kill the patient but they might die but I'm giving it to them to relieve suffering', that's the doctrine of double effect."

The GP told police he had never administered an injection to help someone die.

Strathclyde Police found there was "insufficient evidence" and no further action was taken against Dr Kerr.

The hearing is scheduled to run until 25 July.

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