Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde in Medical Practice

 I've written many times about how doctors who exploit patients sexually can provide excellent care to and be idolized by their other patients. I just learned from my friend Dr. Brian Hurwitz that the same can be true for doctors who murder their patients!

I first met Brian when I spent three months at the King's College London Centre for Medical Law and Ethics in 1992. He was doing an MA at the Centre, and allowed me to spend a fascinating day with him in his general practice surgery. For the past ten years he's been D'Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts and Director of the Centre for the Humanities and Health at King's College.

Brian sent me a not-yet-published chapter he's written about Dr. Harold Shipman, the GP who was ultimately found to have been a serial killer who murdered more than 250 of his patients. The chapter included this remarkable quote from the son of one of the patients Dr. Shipman was found to have murdered:
I remember the time Shipman gave to my Dad. He would come around at the drop of a hat. He was a marvellous GP apart from the fact that he killed my father.
Shipman never admitted his guilt and refused to talk with psychiatrists, as did his surviving family. He committed suicide in prison in 2004. Although many colleagues and members of the community where he practiced noted strange occurrences in Dr. Shipman's practice, no one was prepared to draw the retrospectively obvious conclusion - a trusted, beloved physician was killing his  patients!

I think the best comment about people like Shipman comes from "The Shadow," an old time radio detective whose adventures I followed as a child. (The Shadow had the gift of invisibility.)
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

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