Britain’s biggest serial killer was a family doctor
A mugshot of Dr Harold Shipman
There is assisted dying and there is assisted dying. The former is in the headlines nowadays and is also known as assisted suicide. The latter is clearly murder. The best example of this is Dr Harold Shipman, the British family doctor who may have given lethal injections to more than 270 of his elderly patients in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He was convicted of 15 of these deaths in 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He committed suicide in 2004 in jail.
Shipman is Britain’s most prolific serial killer and a perennial reminder of the inherent vulnerability in the doctor-patient relationship.
Twenty years after his trial, the BBC will be airing a three-part documentary, The Harold Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story, this month. “It's a chilling story about power, authority and an astonishing betrayal of trust,” says filmmaker Chris Wilson.
The documentary series features interviews with friends and relatives of Shipman's victims. Police detected a pattern of administering lethal doses of diamorphine, signing death certificates, and then falsifying medical records to indicate that his patients had been in poor health.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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