contribution by Sarah Ismail
Kay Gilderdale, the mother of Lynn Gilderdale, 31, who lived with severe ME for 17 years, has been found not guilty of her daughterâ€™s murder. In December 2008, Mrs Gilderdale helped to end Lynnâ€™s life by handing her daughter two syringes of morphine, which Miss Gilderdale injected into herself.
When Mrs Gilderdale felt that the morphine had not achieved Miss Gilderdaleâ€™s aim of ending her own life, she crushed some tablets and gave them to her daughter through the feeding tube Miss Gilderdale used because she was unable to swallow.
On her personal blog, reprinted in the Times yesterday, Lynn Gilderdale wrote:
I really, really, really want to die and have had enough of being so sick and in so much pain every second of everyday and, basically, one serious health crisis after another. I am tired, so very, very tired and I just donâ€™t think I can keep hanging on for that elusive illness-free existence.
Mum regularly goes through everything with me. I never waver, I just become more and more sure as time passes. I have always stated that if I was unable to make a decision myself the power goes jointly to my parents. I trust them implicitly with my life and death. I know they wonâ€™t do the selfish thing in keeping me here purely for themselves.
Last week, Frances Inglis was found guilty of the murder of her son, Thomas, 22, who became brain damaged in 2007. In November 2008, she went to his room at his care home and injected him with heroin.
Like Lynn Gilderdale, Thomas Inglis was tube fed. He was unable to speak and could only communicate through squeezing his motherâ€™s hand. Unlike Kay Gilderdale, Frances Inglis only believed that her son would not have wanted to continue his life when she ended it. She did not know this- and nor did she try to ask her son what he wanted.
Many people have wondered whether Frances Inglis was really trying, as she claims, to end Tomâ€™s suffering- or her own. Since no one will ever know what Tomâ€™s wishes were, those people will always wonder. There seems to be clear evidence that the verdicts in both cases were the right ones.
The cases are equally tragic- one of a mother acting on her daughterâ€™s last wishes despite her own pain, and another of a mother not considering the wishes of the child she claims to love because she was focusing so much on her own pain at having a disabled child. This is a pain many people have coped with very well in the past, which many others are coping with very well today and, it is to be hoped, which others will be able to cope with very well in the future.
While there are many disabled people who will never want an assisted suicide, or be able to understand how anyone could ask such a thing of their parents, it is to be hoped that these cases will help them to realise the importance of considering every individual disabled personâ€™s opinions and wishes about this issue.
It is also to be hoped that the opinions and wishes of disabled people who ask for assisted suicides will be fully considered in court during all future similar trials- and that the law on assisted suicide can be changed to show leniency towards people who clearly act on the wishes of the person concerned in such cases.
Sarah Ismail blogs at Same Difference
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Disability