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  • The right to end lives?

    by guest
    27th January, 2010 at 1:23 pm    

    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 daughter’s murder. In December 2008, Mrs Gilderdale helped to end Lynn’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 Gilderdale’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 don’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 won’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 mother’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 Tom’s suffering- or her own. Since no one will ever know what Tom’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 daughter’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 person’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

                  Post to

    Filed in: Civil liberties,Disability

    16 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sarah ismail

      Me @pickledpolitics:

    2. pickles

      Blog post:: The right to end lives?

    3. Agnieszka Tokarska

      RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: The right to end lives?

    4. Indigo Jo Blogs — The differences between the Inglis and Gilderdale murder cases

      [...] Earlier this week, a mother named Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of the attempted murder of her daughter Lynn in December 2008. Lynn Gilderdale had been bed-bound since the age of 14 with severe ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), which is a form of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). She was paraplegic (earlier on in her illness, she had been functionally quadriplegic, but she remained without feeling or movement in her legs) and unable to speak or swallow. The Daily Mail printed an interview with her mother in today’s edition. (More: Sarah Ismail @ Pickled Politics.) [...]

    1. platinum786 — on 27th January, 2010 at 2:14 pm  

      This pay not be applicable with the long term ill, but I was joking with a friend at work the other day. I said “I wonder whether people commiting scuicide have second thoughts at the last second”, ie someone who has just jumped off a building.

      Okay people may well want to die, but how many of those who have killed themselves, just before dying thought, “STOP”.

    2. MiriamBinder — on 27th January, 2010 at 4:09 pm  

      Lynn could make her wishes known whereas Thomas could not. Therefore effectively we have done Thomas’ thinking for him; as total strangers without the slightest insight into how this young man has grown and articulated into a thinking cognisant person from infancy on.

      The other difference of course is that whereas Kay Gilderdale was actively looking after her daughter at home, Frances Inglis had been prohibited from seeing her son due to a previous court appearance (in 2003 if memory serves me right) and he was cared for in a hospice/carehome …

      Lynn has been severely disabled, with a condition that effectively had further deteriorated her fundamental physical condition to the extent where even if the original disability was now miraculously cured, she would not have been able to resume a fit and active life.

      Thomas on the other hand had become disabled as a result of a self-initiated jump from an ambulance which had left him paralysed and severely brain damaged unable to communicate and being kept alive only by modern medicinal practise.

      To equate these two cases is disingenuous to say the least. Further it only serves to further murky the waters as it could be claimed that only provided the subject can still communicate in a manner that satisfies us, the general public, that they have made their wishes clear will these wishes be taken into consideration; otherwise we will do their thinking for them.

      If there is one thing that the Kay Gilderdale case has managed to highlight is that Keir Starmer QC,the Director of Prosecutions, is waging a very personal campaign on this issue. Kay Gilderdale had already, at a previous court appearance in July pleaded guilty to a charge of assisting suicide. Yet despite this he still attempted to gain a conviction of attempted murder.

      When we have highly senior members of the judiciary playing political football with these highly vulnerable individuals who are already dealing with a level of pain and grief to an extent few of us can enter into I am further convinced that we need no change in the law itself.

      What we need is a case on case decision. However I do not believe that a public trial is necessarily the way forward in that; nor do I think that it is necessarily the Prosecution Service that should determine the issue on the case on case basis. This is never a matter of in the public interest as we are not talking about people who are likely to go out and repeat offending; therefore the issue of public safety does not come up.

      I do not think that the law has any place in these highly individual cases. Maybe the way forward would be for a jury of peers, in the purest sense … that is individuals who are of similar age, interests, gender etcetera who could reach a consensus on whether or not euthanasia is indeed reasonable in any given case.

    3. sarah — on 27th January, 2010 at 4:54 pm  

      Miriam- Frances Inglis was not allowed to see her son because she had injected him with heroin once before, in 2007, but failed to end his life.

    4. MiriamBinder — on 27th January, 2010 at 5:54 pm  

      Sarah, I am fully aware of why she was prohibited from seeing her son. It has no bearing however on either the lead article or my response.

    5. sarah — on 27th January, 2010 at 7:06 pm  

      Ok. Just giving you the date as you put 2003 above.

    6. lfc4life — on 27th January, 2010 at 7:11 pm  

      Tony Blair knows a thing or 2 about ending lives he ended around 500,000 in iraq.

      Perfect candidate as the executioner in chief!

    7. MiriamBinder — on 27th January, 2010 at 7:18 pm  

      Thank you … I may well have got the specific date wrong.

    8. sonia — on 28th January, 2010 at 5:28 pm  

      well said Sarah.
      I actually I think there needs to be a serious consideration of an individual’s right to die - when they can express this desire, why not? As long as there is some way of checking it has been thought about carefully and we can’t help them some other way to relieve their mental/physical pain/distress.

      Why should people be forced to remain alive and use up the Earth’s resources if they don’t want to. So often its painted as a “selfish” desire - to want out.

    9. Martin Sullivan — on 29th January, 2010 at 12:58 pm  

      Talking of the ending of lives, I wonder whether anyone here remebers Wafa Al-Biss:

      She was burned in a domestic accident in Gaza and was receiving regular hospital treatment in Israel prior to being persuaded to wear some explosives for her next visit so that she could blow herself to bits and kill and maim a few of the Zionist oppressors working as doctors, nurses and orderlies.

    10. MiriamBinder — on 29th January, 2010 at 1:46 pm  

      @ Martin Sullivan # 8 Fascinating Martin … now tell me aside from providing you with an opportunity to engage in your favourite subject, what bearing it has on the subject of euthanasia? Do you honestly think there is a correlation between electing to end your life for personal reasons to ending your life as a form of political protest?

    11. Martin Sullivan — on 29th January, 2010 at 2:34 pm  

      Yes, Miriam.

      A person due to peg out from, say, terminal cancer could choose become a suicide bomber infiltrating a Parliamentary Labour Party cocktail party.

      It would be inappropriate to say whether this would be considered a good thing or a bad thing.

    12. MiriamBinder — on 29th January, 2010 at 3:36 pm  

      Like I said Martin, nothing like spouting is there ;)

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