Sunday 4 December 2016

Doctor faces second probe over deaths

Anushka Asthana and Mark Townsend

Published 20/06/2010 | 05:00

A DOCTOR cleared of murdering three of his patients could face a second criminal investigation after admitting that he did hasten the deaths of people in his care.

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Police in Durham, northern England, confirmed yesterday that they were consulting the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether there were grounds to reopen the case of Howard Martin. The doctor, who has now retired, told a newspaper that he had acted out of "Christian compassion" when he gave 18 terminally ill and elderly patients what proved to be fatal doses of painkillers.

Dr Martin was struck off by the General Medical Council on Friday because of professional misconduct. The body ruled that he was guilty of "egregious, despicable and dangerous conduct".

Superintendent Paul Unsworth of Durham Constabulary said: "Our immediate concern is the impact (of his comments) on the relatives of these individuals."

Dr Martin was charged and acquitted of murdering three of his patients in December 2005.

In an interview published yesterday, the doctor admitted that in two of the cases he had hastened the deaths of the patients without permission.

He also administered a final injection to his son Paul, 31, when he was dying from cancer in May 1988. He said he knew his comments carried the risk of a life sentence, but said he wanted to speak out in favour of reform. The system, he claimed, prevented the terminally ill from having the "dignity" of dying at home with their loved ones.

There were mixed reactions yesterday from the relatives of those who died.

Albert Cubitt, 88, whose wife Bessie died of lung cancer in 2001, described Dr Martin as an "angel of mercy".

Asked about a second investigation, Mr Cubitt was forceful: "Why the hell don't they drop it. They seem determined to get him."

However, Paul Gittins, son of Harry who died in 2004 at the age of 74, said he wanted his father's death investigated again. He said: "My dad was not in any pain and discomfort that day. There was no reason for him (Dr Martin) to do what he did."

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