`I helped my patients to die,' says GP

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A DOCTOR accused of murdering one of his terminally ill patients said he had "no problem" with helping his patients to die, a court was told yesterday.

Dr John Moor, 52, known by his second name David, denies murdering 85- year-old George Liddell. Mr Liddell, a retired ambulance driver who suffered from cancer of the colon, died at his daughter's home in Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, on 19 July 1997.

James Goss QC, for the prosecution, told Newcastle Crown Court that Dr Moor was interviewed by Rachel Ellis, a reporter with the Press Association, on 20 July 1997, following a newspaper article in which the former United Nations medical director, Dr Michael Irwin, said he had helped patients to die.

Mr Goss said: "In the interview with Miss Ellis, Dr Moor said that he had given two doses of diamorphine to two of his patients in the past week.

"He admitted he had helped many patients to die in the last 30 years, and said he `aggressively supported Dr Irwin'."

The jury was then shown a video of a television interview with the BBC that Dr Moor took part in later that day.

In the interview, Dr Moor was asked again if he had helped these patients to die and he replied: "Many times over the past 30 years. But I could put no numerical figure on it.

"I address the problem and the needs of the patient with care and compassion."

When asked by the interviewer what he did next, Dr Moor said: "We go in with a fairly high dose of diamorphine.

"I am not a member of the BMA [British Medical Association] and do not subscribe to their views. I probably am breaking the law; I'm on the fringe of breaking the law. I would be very surprised if I had to defend myself in court.

"I can't be struck off because I'm dealing with pain and with suffering and I'm dealing with the pain, and I have no problem with it."

Mr Goss said it was a simple case of murder and not about euthanasia. "Once a doctor decides to terminate life, not only is it contrary to the BMA's views, it constitutes, in our view, murder.

"This is not a trial about the merits or de-merits of euthanasia, it is a straightforward alleged case of a doctor deliberately ending the life of a patient. We do not allege he was a callous, wicked man. Quite the contrary, by all accounts he was a caring, hard-working practitioner, well-liked by his patients. But no one man, whatever his station in life, is above the law."

Twenty minutes into the trial, one of Dr Moor's supporters in the public gallery was ejected from the court after an outburst. The man jumped to his feet and shouted to Mr Justice Hooper: "You are persecuting a wonderful man of courage, sir."

The judge ordered him to leave the court, not to return before the end of the trial and warned everyone else in the courtroom that any similar outbursts would be treated in the same way.

It emerged later that the supporter who was ejected from the court was Dr Irwin.

Mr Goss said: "The prosecution case is that Dr Moor made a conscious decision to end Mr Liddell's life and administered large amounts of diamorphine to that end."

Dr Moor, of Hexham, Northumberland, was arrested in July 1997 after Mr Liddell's body was withheld by the coroner and examined by police pathologists. He was charged with murder in June 1998.

The case continues today. It is scheduled to last up to three weeks.