Two cases relating to ‘assisted suicide’ occurred in the UK recently. In one case, the mother of a young woman who had suffered from ME for nearly fifteen years, and who had helped her daughter to take her own life, was acquitted of complicity in bringing about her death. In the second case, where a mother had made two attempts to kill her brain-damaged son (the second attempt proved ‘successful’), she was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory life sentence, with a recommendation that she should serve at least nine years.
The prosecuting counsel in the case said:
‘This is a tragic case … but it is not a defence to murder that a mother wants to put her son out of his misery, whether that misery was real, or, as in this case, merely perceived … You are not entitled to terminate someone’s life in this way.’
Commenting on the media and public outcry against the conviction and sentence imposed on Mrs. Inglis, the mother who succeeded in killing her son, Dominic Lawson (writing in the [London] Independent), says:
‘One of the reasons why there seems such a public willingness to accept Mrs. Inglis’s actions as not only justifiable, but actually heroic, is that it is widely assumed that a dependent life is a pointless life. In the vast majority of cases, that is not the view of those in such a vulnerable position. … The wholesale extermination of the handicapped which took place in Germany in the late 1930s is often seen as a purely Nazi phenomenon. Yet that policy could not have been enacted if the German people had not already indicated their acceptance of the idea of “lives unworthy of life”.’
He tells us that:
‘Three years ago this month, my wife’s nephew sustained a dreadful brain injury by the banal process of falling downstairs. … We were told that the prognosis was grim.’ Despite extraordinary measures to try to save his life, the young man ‘registered at the very lowest end of the scale measuring signs of brain activity.’ For weeks, he was tended and cared for in the intensive care unit at Charing Cross Hospital in London. ‘It was an agonisingly slow process, but gradually he made a recovery – and a much better one than even the most optimistic of the doctors had predicted. … Yesterday I called Dominic [his wife’s nephew], to tell him about this case. What did he think of the fact that the British media seemed to regard Mrs Inglis’s actions as heroic? “Chilling,” he said. He should know.’