Implications of Harold Shipman for general practice

Postgrad Med J. 2004 Jun;80(944):303-6; discussion 307-8. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.2003.013110.


Harold Shipman was an English general practitioner who murdered at least 215 of his patients between 1974 and 1998. A public inquiry is underway, but general practitioners and all doctors also need to consider the implications for their profession. The aim of this paper is to stimulate debate. Issues identified as important to consider include: trust between doctors; attitudes towards failing systems such as cremation certification; acceptance of the duty of accountability; ensuring patients can have reasonable confidence in their doctors; commitment to preventing such a case occurring again; and relationships with patients. It is argued that restricting debate to methods to detect doctors who murder would limit the opportunity to improve medical practice and would constitute a failure to fulfil the duty owed by doctors to Shipman's victims and their families.

MeSH terms

  • Anger
  • Attitude to Health
  • England
  • Family Practice* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family Practice* / organization & administration
  • Family Practice* / standards
  • Homicide* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Homicide* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Social Responsibility
  • Trust