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Dr Iain Kerr, a family doctor in Glasgow, UK, was found guilty of misconduct after prescribing the pills to an elderly patient with osteoporosis, who went on kill herself using other drugs.

On July 24, 2008 the General Medical Council (GMC) suspended the 61-year-old from practising medicine for six months after a two-week hearing in Manchester.

Campaigners said the case highlighted the “moral ambiguity” surrounding
cases where a patient asks for help to end their life.

But the medical profession stood firm, saying the role of doctors is to protect the vulnerable and give all patients as good a quality of life as is possible, rather than helping them to die.

Dr Kerr prescribed 30 sodium amytal sleeping pills to the former businesswoman in 1998 after she told him she had considered suicide. His actions go against the Hippocratic Oath, the classical principles to which doctors should adhere in their treatment of patients, which includes the statement: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

The GMC found that the Glasgow GP’s fitness to practise was impaired and branded his actions “inappropriate, irresponsible, liable to bring the profession into disrepute and not in your patient’s best interest”.

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