Channel 5's 2-part dramatization of the career of Harold Shipman, Britain's most inveterate serial killer, was horrible but for me offered some good news.
Shipman murdered at least 215 people and would never have been caught if he had not made the clumsy mistake of forging the last victim's will so he could inherit all her money. He was a consummate killer but a crude amateur when it came to forgery and theft. So he was finally caught after three decades. What stunned people was that a doctor, a skilled and apparently dedicated GP, could so completely betray the principles of his profession and the trust of his patients. He was a complete disgrace to the medical profession and the human race.
Difficult to find any good news here, but what the programme did expose is that Shipman was a drug addict from his early twenties. He may even have started when still a student. He regularly injected himself with pethidine, similar to heroine, and used a range of cunning methods to pilfer, embezzle and sneak the drug out of National Health supplies. He used to prescribe it unnecessarily or excessively to patients and then take it himself. He used to attend at deathbeds long after working hours for the not very saintly purpose of helping himself to any supplies of pethidine or opiates that were left over at their homes. He was once actually prosecuted for fiddling the NHS out of narcotics - then allowed to go back to work as a GP.
His life-long drug-addiction must have had a major impact on his mind and judgement, and it is huge relief to me to know that he did not commit these utterly evil and callous acts when of completely sound mind. Evil does not just happen randomly, something has to happen to permit it to creep in. If a fruit is damaged, the spores of mould can enter and it goes mouldy. If a tree is injured, by a storm or the gnawing of a squirrel, disease can enter through the wound. So it is with evil. And that is a positive (though not cheerful) reflection for Good Friday.
Shipman may have believed that he was doing his elderly patients a favour by despatching them. But none of them ever asked to be done such a dubious favour. We must be careful not to let euthanasia creep in by the back door in our society, under the name of the "Liverpool care Pathway" or anything else. A doctor is there to save and preserve life. That's his job.
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