POLICE are to make further inquiries into the conduct of a doctor after he confessed to assisting the suicide of a number of patients.
GP Dr Iain Kerr told The Herald how he had prescribed particular drugs and gave advice to some of his patients who wanted to end their own lives. The cases included supplying sleeping pills to an elderly couple who wanted to end their life together.
Dr Kerr, who worked at Williamwood Medical Centre in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, has previously been interviewed by the procurator-fiscal, who took no further action.
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The Crown Office confirmed police will now work to establish if any new evidence is available. The 66-year-old GP said he would be very happy to co-operate with further police investigations.
A Crown Office spokesman said: "We have instructed the police to make inquiries into whether there is any new evidence available. Any new evidence will be considered by Crown Counsel.
"There is no crime of assisted suicide in Scotland, where, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, the law of homicide may apply. Any change in the law related to homicide is properly a matter for the Scottish Parliament."
Dr Kerr was suspended for six months in July 2008 after appearing before the General Medical Council on charges including prescribing sleeping tablets to a patient so she could end her life.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde ruled in 2008 that he could continue working for it. In August 2010, all restrictions on his ability to practise were removed by the GMC.
Margo MacDonald offered her support to Dr Kerr as she prepares to publish a new Holyrood bill allowing registered individuals to help people with a terminal illness end their lives.
The MSP praised him as "brave and caring", saying: "He has been a good physician, giving patients as much expected, conventional care for as long as he treated them and as long as they wanted it.
"At the end he allowed them to exercise their own choice about their death. He helped them, in some cases, achieve a peaceful death. I don't think anyone could be more caring than that."
Ms MacDonald said she had discussed assisted dying with Dr Kerr, and hopes he will address a series of public meetings planned after the publication of her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill later this year.
"He is the best person to be doing this," she added. "He is brave, radical and upfront and he is perfectly balanced about the issue."
A previous bid to legalise assisted suicide was defeated in 2011, when MSPs voted against the End of Life Assistance Bill by 85 to 16 with two abstentions.The new Bill was announced in January last year and a consultation drew strong opposition.
Ms MacDonald – who has Parkinson's disease – made a number of changes to the new Bill including allowing non-medics to register as so-called "friends at the end".
Patients would also be able to log their wish for assisted death with their GP well in advance of any terminal condition, in a bid to allay fears that elderly or confused people could be pressured into agreeing to suicide.
The Humanist Society Scotland has said some of its celebrants – who officiate at weddings and funerals – could take on the role of "friend at the end".
A British Medical Association spokesman said: "The majority of doctors continue to oppose physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia."
A Catholic Church spokesman said: "All medical professionals know that they are in a position which requires absolute trust and that they should always work for the wellbeing of their patients. Intentional killing or assisting someone to kill themselves is absolutely forbidden and needs to be upheld by our laws."