Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kerri Wooltorton's death shames Britain

Two years ago, a young woman, suffering from severe depression, made her tenth suicide attempt by drinking poison and called an ambulance. She stated that she had called the ambulance so that she would not die 'alone and in pain' and was holding a living will which stated that she did not want to be treated. Fearing that he would be charged with assault, the doctor did not intervene to save Kerri Wooltorton's life and she was left to die. An inquest found that he had acted lawfully.

SPUC warned repeatedly when the Mental Capacity Bill was being debated that vulnerable people would be left to die but those warnings were dismissed. I remember during a conference, hearing a Catholic doctor describing just such a scenario if the Mental Capacity Bill passed into law. In his case, he feared that he would face prosecution for doing his duty as a doctor and saving a suicidal person, regardless of their living will. Again, such concerns were not taken seriously, but Britain has essentially criminalised doctors who follow the Hippocratic Oath which contains the unambiguous instruction: "First Do No Harm."

An Australian psychiatrist has pointed out in an article that many people suffering from complex disorders can be helped out of their despair with appropriate medical care and go on to lead satisfying lives, though it can sometimes take years for a person to recover from severe depression.

Tragically for Kerri, she will never have the chance to recover from her depressive illness.