John Bodkin Adams was responsible for a new concept in medical management - “doing a Bodkin”.
Arrested for murder in December 1956, Adams was a successful - though probably not very good - general practitioner in Eastbourne.
Rumours about his methods had started as early as the 1930s. He regularly inherited substantial sums from his patients. By the time of his arrest, he was probably the wealthiest general practitioner in the country. It was estimated that perhaps 160 of his patients had died unusually.
Ultimately, Adams was convicted for prescription fraud, lying on cremation certificates and failing to keep a register of dangerous drugs. The judge later said: ‘He did not think of himself as a murderer but a dispenser of death … According to his lights, he had done nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong in a doctor getting a legacy, nor in his bestowing in return … a death as happy as heroin could make it.’
He was restored to the medical register in 1961.
- For a fuller account of the events, see www.nhshistory.net