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GPs get advice on assisted suicides

GPs have been reminded they could face a long jail sentence if they are found to have given euthanasia advice to patients who subsequently kill themselves.

The Medical Defence Union issued the warning following the case of motor neurone disease sufferer Reginald Crew, who died after seeking assistance in committing suicide last week in Switzerland.

The MDU said the publicity surrounding the case made it more likely GPs would be approached by patients for advice on how they could take their own lives.

Even giving advice on the subject to a patient who subsequently committed assisted suicide could lead to a doctor being investigated by the police for aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring a suicide, even if the act took place in another country, it said.

Any UK doctor taking part in euthanasia, wherever it took place in the world, could be tried for murder and man-slaughter in England and Northern Ireland.

Dr John Gilberthorpe, a medicolegal adviser for the MDU, said: 'The law is very clear: it does not allow assisted suicide, though this is very different from a case where a mentally competent adult decides they do not wish to continue with treatment that is keeping them alive.

'The best thing a member can do if they are asked for help in these circumstances is to phone us for advice.'

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