Scots doctor gave woman sleeping pills for noisy neighbours

The patient complained that her neighbours had been keeping her up at night. Picture: Colin Hattersley
The patient complained that her neighbours had been keeping her up at night. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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A Scots family doctor who got a dementia patient to give sleeping tablets to her neighbours after she accused them of keeping her awake at night has been suspended from practising medicine for three months.

Dr Alexander Munro, 67, originally from Edinburgh, prescribed the 84-year-old woman with 28 powerful Zopiclone pills when she complained that loud music, singing and other noise was irritating her throughout the night at her block of flats.

But the GP then advised the pensioner to post the tablets through the letter boxes of her neighbours along with a hand-written note he addressed to “the occupants”.

It read: “I gather you sometimes suffer restlessness at night and the resulting music is leading to discomfort for neighbours.

“You might find these tablets useful. If so, please send this letter to your own doctor and he can provide some more for you.”

Munro later found himself in trouble with medical watchdogs after the neighbours went to his surgery in Hounslow, West London, to complain when the pills were delivered to two homes.

One couple had a young child, who could have died from organ failure if he had swallowed around three or four of the 7.5g tablets. An investigation revealed the elderly woman – known as Patient A – wore a hearing aid, struggled to hear normal conversation and had been accused of harassing her 
neighbours.

She had also been referred to Munro by social services due to concerns over her mental health after firefighters had been called to her flat when she left a pan to overflow, setting off a smoke alarm.

Neighbours had complained she was banging at their doors in the early hours and she was eventually referred to mental health services by a concerned social worker.

Tests showed she was suffering from vascular dementia and the loud music and singing she had been hearing was part of an “auditory hallucination”.

Yesterday, at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, Munro, a GP partner with more than 40 years’ experience, was found guilty of various misconduct charges and told his fitness to practise was impaired.

He apologised, saying his actions were the product of “aberrant thinking” but claimed he was trying to help the pensioner “build bridges” with his neighbours.

He said the risk to the neighbours was remote and warned that suspension for a long period would probably mean him retiring from the medical profession altogether.