Shipman tells why he decided not to revive elderly patient who collapsed

Peter Beal,Maria Breslin
Wednesday 01 December 1999 00:02 GMT

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


DR HAROLD Shipman told his murder trial yesterday that he decided not to try to resuscitate an 81-year-old patient he is accused of killing when she collapsed in front of him in her living room.

Dr Shipman said he had gone to see Marie West at her home in Hyde, Greater Manchester, to check on her after earlier prescribing the powerful drug pethidine for pain she was suffering in her hip.

He told how Mrs West had let him into her house in Knott Fold, Gee Cross, sat opposite him in a chair and talked to him about the pain she had been suffering. "I opened my bag and reached down for my stethoscope and blood pressure machine and said, `Let's have a look at you'," Dr Shipman told Preston Crown Court. "There was no obvious response. Up to then I hadn't looked at her while she was telling her story. When I looked up she was slumped in the chair. It took me a moment to realise she wasn't well."

He said he had walked over to Mrs West and examined her but there was no obvious sign of respiration. He decided she had suffered a stroke. His counsel, Nicola Davies, QC, asked: "Did you make any attempt to resuscitate Mrs West?"

Dr Shipman replied: "I had to make the decision then whether to decide to attempt resuscitation and I chose not to attempt resuscitation."

The GP said that in his 30 years' experience he had only had three patients collapse like Mrs West. Post-mortem examinations had shown they had all been stroke victims.

"In my experience with patients the attempt to resuscitate is poorly rewarded and if rewarded the patient would be left with a lot of disability," he said.

Dr Shipman said he had considered calling an ambulance but that would have committed him to attempting resuscitation for 10 minutes until it arrived.

"That didn't bother me," he said. "It was where we would end up. In my experience you would not get somebody who was able to live independently and enjoy life like she did. I didn't call an ambulance."

Dr Shipman said while searching for a telephone to contact Mrs West's son he encountered her neighbour, Marion Hadfield, in the kitchen. On seeing Mrs West, he said, Mrs Hadfield had commented that she was still warm "and was I sure that she was dead".

He said: "I said the pupils were fully dilated. `There is nothing there'."

He denied later telling Mrs West's son Christopher that his mother had died while he had gone out to his car after taking her blood pressure. He also later denied saying she could have died from a heart attack.

Dr Shipman, 53, of Roe Cross Green, Mottram, near Hyde, denies murdering 15 women patients and forging the pounds 386,000 will of one of them.

Dr Shipman was also yesterday questioned about the death of another patient,

76-year-old Muriel Grimshaw, of Berkeley Crescent, Hyde, who was found dead the day after he paid a visit to her home.

In hindsight, the doctor said, he would have requested a post-mortem examination be made on the pensioner. When asked why by Miss Davies, he replied: "I wouldn't be standing here." The doctor said Mrs Grimshaw died of a stroke.

The jury was told how Dr Shipman was called to her home on 15 July 1997, He found her lying dead on the bed. Dr Shipman said he had been "mixed up" when he stated on Mrs Grimshaw's death certificate that he last saw her on 2 July 1997. He denied murdering Mrs West, Mrs Grimshaw and Jean Lilley, 59, by administering morphine or diamorphine, the chemical name for heroin.

The trial continues.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in