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Plans to “prevent another Shipman”

17 July 2007

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New proposals could mean bereaved families have the right to inspect the medical forms of a deceased family member before cremation.

The plans are designed to prevent a repeat of the murders committed by the former GP Harold Shipman, who killed at least 215 people.

Shipman was found guilty of 15 murders and sentenced to life in prison, but committed suicide in January 2004.

A third inquiry into the mass murderer by Dame Janet Smith found that many of the forms completed by the doctor who worked in Hyde, Greater Manchester, were totally inaccurate.

She claimed that if family members had been able to draw the medical referee’s attention to concerns about unexpected symptoms in the case, Shipman may have been caught earlier.

The existing Cremation Regulations date back to 1930, and are seen by many as old fashioned and confusing.

The new document proposes to consolidate and modernise the rules.

A consultation period will now be held on the measures, which include new regulations dealing with the handling of contagious disease cases.

In the event of a pandemic, the rules will be amended to allow for a simpler procedure for the cremation of bodies.

A number of more minor changes are also being suggested, and the deadline for views on the plans is 22 October.

Justice minister Bridget Prentice said: “The Shipman inquiry highlighted areas where the system of reporting deaths could be improved.

“These changes will provide reassurance for bereaved family members at a difficult time.”

Ministry of Justice

Copyright © PA Business 2007

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