The show is presented by Dr Harry Brunjes and Dr Andrew Johns, both of whom have a connection to one of the subjects. Brunjes was a junior doctor at Eastbourne Hospital when Bodkin Adams was admitted as a patient towards the end of his life, and Johns presented evidence at Shipman’s trial, as one of the foremost forensic psychiatrists in the country
The two provide snippets of the cases alternately, to build a picture of both the similarities and differences in the cases. It adds to a chilling tale of betrayal of trust and utter callousness fuelled, in a slightly limp revelation, by personality disorders. Incredibly, Bodkin Adams walked free, and Shipman, perhaps even more incredibly, remains the only British physician on record as being convicted for the murder of a patient.
There is a deliberate austerity to the production. Beyond a few slides, there is confidence that the material itself is enough, which it is. It must be said however, that Brunjes is a more adept public speaker than Johns, which adds a certain unevenness to the proceedings. Also, there is a staid rigidity to their questioning of each other when talking about the respective legal proceedings. This feels a little unnecessary given the narrative has been purely informative up to that point, and comes across as scripted rather than conversational.
Despite those caveats, Dial Medicine for Murder is a fascinating insight into the pathological mind. The Shipman case is obviously well-known to contemporary audiences, the Bodkin Adams case less so. Beyond anything else, it is a worthy demonstration of how far the legal system has adapted over the course of the century.