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Medics are not murderers

Phil is furious that, in publicly confessing to suffocating his terminally ill lover, Ray Gosling implicated all doctors as his willing accomplices

Two things have irritated me mightily this week.

The first was Tony Copperfield. He snuck in before me and wrote about my intended topic in last week's issue – Dr Clare Gerada (vice chair of the RCGP) and her ludicrous tirade about GPs failing to recognise and ‘treat' gambling problems. I have to admit he did it very well, and I have had to satisfy myself by privately firing off broadsides at Dr Gerada and the college. At the time of writing I have had replies from neither, despite both promising me a response.

The other irritation was the antics of a chap called Ray Gosling.

Mr Gosling works for the BBC and is apparently the author of about a thousand radio documentaries and a hundred on the telly. I don't know what time they were on but I have somehow managed to miss all of them, but still. This week he has finally forced his way into my consciousness.

Mr Gosling has thought it fit to publicly confess to suffocating his lover, who was suffering from terminal AIDS in hospital. He put a pillow over his face, he says, and smothered him, because he was suffering from intolerable pain.

As a result, and to nobody's surprise, Mr Gosling has been arrested on suspicion of murder. As a presumably intelligent man, I'm sure he must have known that this was a likely outcome. I have no problem with this – if Mr Gosling wishes to spend the next decade or so at Her Majesty's Pleasure, that's up to him, and I wish him joy of it.

But what I do object to, in no uncertain terms, is the scurrilous manner in which he corralled the medical profession as his willing accomplices during his interview.

First, he implied – very nearly stated directly – that the doctor looking after his lover gave him a direct invitation and a half-hour window to do the deed.

He said: ‘In a hospital one hot afternoon, the doctor said, "There's nothing we can do", and he was in terrible, terrible pain.

I said to the doctor, "Leave me just for a bit" and he went away. I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead. The doctor came back and I said, "He's gone". Nothing more was ever said.'

Then he implicated the rest of us. When asked by Sarah Montague, ‘Do you think the doctors knew?', Gosling replied: ‘Of course they knew, doctors do this every day.' He went on to say: ‘It was an invitation – why do doctors leave extra morphine for people who are in extreme, extreme pain?'

There was a little chuckle in his voice, as if to imply that the interviewer was incredibly naive not to realise that we were bumping off patients on a daily basis.

How dare you, you self-serving sod, implicate an entire profession in organised regular murder? I'm not an accomplice to your alleged euthanasia. I didn't get into this profession to play God. I'm not arrogant enough to think I know how and when people should die, and in 25 years as a doctor and 15 as a GP, I've never, not once, knowingly hastened the death of one of my patients and I've never known another doctor who admitted to it either.

I would be mortified if my patients thought I would ever do that. Trust would be destroyed forever. We are there to relieve suffering, not hasten death. The very least

I expect is a vigorous campaign by the BMA to stress your doctor is there to help you, not kill you – and certainly not to go off for a coffee so that some solipsistic arrogant bastard can put a pillow over the face of someone whose situation is not to his taste.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley