Mercy killing. Is there such a thing?

26 January 2010

Yesterday a mother was cleared of murder, after assisting in the suicide of her daughter. Former nurse Kay Gilderdale, 55, had looked after her daughter, Lynn, 31, a chronic ME sufferer, 24 hours a day since she was struck down with the disease aged 14.
As her health deteriorated Lynn begged her mother to ‘end her pain.’ The day she died she took an overdose of morphine, but it wasn’t enough to kill her. Her mother found her and had to make the agonising choice, whether to save her daughter or do as she asked and administer more morphine – this time enough to kill her.

‘You are torn apart because you have one part of you wanting to respect your daughter's wishes and understanding everything she’s been through’, says Kay, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting her daughters suicide, ‘And you have got your heart being ripped out at the same time because all you want to do is get them better and keep them alive.’

The judge on the case said Lynn had made a 'fully informed decision that she wished to die' and mother had acted 'selflessly and with exemplary devotion.'

This verdict comes in the same week that Frances Inglis was found guilty of murder, and given a life sentence – a minimum of nine years - for administering a lethal does of heroine to her 22 year old son Tom, who was in a vegetative state after falling from an ambulance and suffering severe head injuries. The judge in that case said there was ‘no concept of mercy killing’ in this country. A killing was still a killing he said, ‘no matter how kind the intention.’

The difference, the judge in Kay Gilderdale’s case said, is Lynn asked to die, and had signed a Do Not Resuscitate order. Whereas Tom wasn’t well enough to express his own wishes.

We’re passing the mic to you lot on this one. Is there such a thing as a merciful killing? Tell us what you think below…

- Amy Molloy


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