UK doctor: I helped patients die

2010-06-19 16:24

London - A doctor cleared of murdering three patients said he had hastened the deaths of two people without their permission, a British newspaper reported on Saturday.

Howard Martin, 75, told the Daily Telegraph he acted out of "Christian compassion" to end the suffering of seriously ill patients.
"I twice helped people to die, not because they wanted to die but because they had such dreadful suffering," he said.

Others he helped bring their lives to an end were able to make their own choice, he said. One of those he assisted was his own son, when he was dying from cancer at the age of 31, the newspaper said.

In Britain, helping someone to die is a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment, although there is growing pressure for a change to the law.

Howard was arrested in 2004 and charged with murdering three former patients, but was later acquitted, the newspaper said.
On Friday, the General Medical Council (GMC) struck Howard off Britain's medical register after an investigation found he had hastened the deaths of 18 patients.

No one from the GMC was immediately available for comment.

The Telegraph said it had identified the 18 people whose deaths were investigated, adding that some of their relatives described Howard as an "angel of mercy" while others accused him of betraying their trust.

The paper quoted him as saying he accepted that his confession put him at risk of conviction if it prompted police to reopen his case.

In 2003, double jeopardy laws were changed to allow retrials for serious offences if compelling new evidence emerged after an acquittal.

It was unclear whether Howard's admission would lead to further action by the police.

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