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CNN Today

Great Britain Launches Investigation into Doctor Convicted of Killing 15 Patients

Aired February 1, 2000 - 1:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Britain, one day after a doctor was convicted of murdering at least 15 patients, the government has launched a public inquiry. Among the questions they want answered: how did Dr. Harold Shipman have access to so much heroin.

But as ITN's Lawrence McGinty reports, drug use wasn't the only clue that went undiscovered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE MCGINTY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): ... Dr. Shipman's, where five of his patients died, highly unusual incidents that sparked no investigation. He was practicing alone. Perhaps other doctors working alongside might have spotted things going wrong, like his massive stockpiling of diamorphine, the medical version of heroin. He simply took leftover supplies from patients and used them to murder others. No one detected his continual misuse of controlled drugs.

Groups representing patient's views say G.P.s in general are simply not inspected enough.

CLARA MACKAY, CONSUMER'S ASSOCIATION: It's really highlighted the shortcomings in the way that general practice is monitored and inspected. Had the doctor of the last victim not complained and not twigged (ph) that something wasn't quite right, he could have gone on for many, many more years and it would not, presumably, have come to light.

MCGINTY: Another issues involves death certificates, which for cremation have to be signed by a second doctor. But the second doctor doesn't have to examine the body or the patients' medical records.

And if the health authority had been able to compare death rates in Shipman's practice with others like this one in the area, the murders might have shown up. But there are no statistics for doing that.

DR. JOHN CHISHOLM, BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: We need to look at the cremation certificate procedures as part of the inquiry that is to be set up, and I think that there could be merit in limiting the numbers of doctors who can sign those second certificates.

MCGINTY: Finally, the issue that the General Medical Council failed to act on Shipman's drug addiction and kept his criminal record confidential.

DR. IAN BOGLE, BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: I see many failures of the system. You look back now and just wonder how it could happen on this scale in this way.

MCGINTY (on camera): Doctors have already accepted there'll have to be changes in many of these areas. What's more contentious is how much they should be left to regulate their own profession in the light of the Shipman case.

Lawrence McGinty, ITN, at the Department of Health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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