General Practitioner

Born: August 11, 1946;

Died: May 13, 2016

DOCTOR Iain Kerr, who has died of cancer aged 69, was perhaps one of the last of the old-fashioned family GPs, a kind of Dr Finlay who treated his patients in Clarkston, just south of Glasgow, as though they were family.

They loved him and demonstrated that in 2008 by supporting him after he was suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) for six months for helping an 87-year-old woman patient to fulfil her clearly-stated wish - to die with dignity on her own terms. In the end, she did not take the sleeping pills he gave her - she took others and died - but his decision to give her a lethal dose of pills was enough to bring him before a GMC hearing which suspended him.

Dr Kerr later told the Herald's health correspondent Helen Puttick that he had also given sleeping tablets to an elderly couple in 1990 after they asked him to help them die peacefully together. In another case, he told a pensioner, at the latter's request, how many pills to take to end his life.

Supported by around 400 patients who spoke out on his behalf in 2008, he was later reinstated and continued his Clarkston practice until he retired in 2011. However, as a modest, publicity-shunning GP, those days of unwanted "fame" in the Scottish, indeed the UK media, distressed him. He felt misunderstood, even vilified, for doing something he believed was morally right, acceding to his patients' wishes. He passionately supported the right to assisted death, something that was rather taboo in his early days but has increasingly gained acceptance worldwide.

It was in 2008, when he was 61, that Dr Kerr hit the unwanted headlines after he admitted giving an elderly patient sleeping pills she had asked for to end her life. As it turned out, the lady, known in the GMC hearing as Patient A, did not take the pills, sodium amytal, but took an overdose of a different drug (Temazepam) from a different source which eventually caused her death. The GMC ruled that he had "made a serious misjudgement and embarked on a potentially criminal act." That was the official verdict, politically-correct, but many doctors said privately they sided with Dr. Kerr.

In his defence, Dr Kerr told the hearing that Patient A was "a very independent capable woman just thinking that there might come a stage where she did not want to continue living" Afterwards, he said: "I felt it terribly stressful because I did not feel I had done anything wrong ... having your integrity doubted is difficult to cope with, having done something which you feel is morally acceptable."

Iain Crawford Kerr was born in Glasgow on August 11, 1946. His father, who worked for the biscuits and shortbread firm William Crawford & Sons, died when Iain was five and so he was brought up by his mother Lily, helped by his big sister Morag. He went to the old Glasgow High School, on Elmbank Street near Charing Cross station, before studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating MB ChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) in 1969.

He began his career as a doctor for a year in the United States, at the Bon Secours hospital in Baltimore and his first child Lindsay was born in Baltimore. Back in Scotland, he served for a year at the Western Infirmary on Dumbarton Road, Glasgow.

His first GP practice was on Eastwoodmains road, Giffnock, his second on Seres road, Clarkston, before he settled for the rest of his career at the Williamwood Medical Centre in Clarkston, eventually taking it over himself.

Although his unwanted publicity late in his career overshadowed his work for a couple of years, it in no way defined him as a doctor or a human being. Twinkly-eyed and soft-spoken, he remained much loved as a GP who gladly made house calls and gave his home number to patients.

He was also an amateur athlete who ran more than 25 marathons for charity, including London, New York City, Boston and Glasgow, raising money for his beloved causes including the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice on the south bank of the Clyde at Carlton Place. He once clocked a sub-three-hour time in the Glasgow marathon. He was a member of Bellahouston Harriers and Giffnock North Amateur Athletic Club, where he also coached.

He was a keen cyclist, completing some duathlons and long-distance charity bike events such as the Etape Loch Ness, which bills itself as "the real Loch Ness monster," and took his family on cycling holidays across Scotland, Bavaria and Northern Ireland. One of his favourite bike tours was around the Isle of Arran, revisiting scenes from his childhood holidays during the Glasgow Fair. He was also an avid tennis player at Clarkston Bowling & Tennis Club on Eastwoodmains Road, where he served as secretary until his cancer deteriorated. Many of his tennis partners were also his patients. In addition, he was also a smooth and graceful ballroom dancer.

Dr Kerr strongly supported a right-to-die law in Scotland, first proposed by the late MSP Margo Macdonald but so far not passed. He was a member of Doctors for Assisted Suicide and a staunch supporter of the right-to-die group FATE (Friends at the End). "His key to being a good GP was to listen to his patients," his daughter Erin told The Herald. "He phoned patients himself promptly with test results."

During his suspension, he volunteered as a driver for hospices and for a Glasgow food bank and helped disabled people at yoga classes. “With Iain it was always about other people," his wife Viviane said. "It was never about himself. He was a very modest man. He never blew his own trumpet. That was just his way.”

Dr Iain Kerr died at his home in Newton Mearns, after treatment for metastatic melanoma at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre off Great Western Road. It was first diagnosed in 2010 but spread last year. A service celebrating his life was held at the Busby Hotel, not far from his old practice in Clarkston, where many of the mourners made donations to the Prince and Princess of Wales hospice.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Viviane, a former nurse, children Lindsay, Martin and Erin, grandchildren Rhys and Olivia, and his sister Morag.