Calls for law change on mercy killings

A mother who helped her chronically ill daughter to die is found not guilty of attempted murder, in stark contrast to another mother jailed for a similar crime last week

Should people who help their terminally ill relatives die face prosecution?

The question has been raised as a mother who helped her chronically ill daughter to commit suicide walked free from court one week after another mother in a similar case was jailed for nine years.

Kay Gilderdale was yesterday cleared of attempting to murder her daughter Lynn, who had suffered from the debilitating disease ME for 17 years.

Lynn, who was 31 when she died in December 2008, was paralysed by her illness and couldn’t speak, swallow or sit up. She suffered great pain and received a constant supply of morphine.

Lynn signed a living will and looked into dying at Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide clinic.

In the end she overdosed on morphine and when that didn’t kill her, begged her mother to administer more.

Kay, 55, a former nurse, wept as the jury at Lewes Crown Court found her not guilty of attempted murder. But many questioned whether she should have been brought to trial at all.

Her acquittal stands in stark contrast to the case of Frances Inglis, who received a life sentence last week for injecting her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin.

There was a legal difference between the cases, in that Lynn Gilderdale had made it clear that she wanted to die, says the Mail

Kay admitted assisted suicide and at her pre-trial hearing the judge invited the prosecution to drop the murder trial, saying it would not be in the public interest.

Judge Richard Brown said: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to accept it now than let this defendant get tangled up in a messy trial for the sake of some legal mumbo-jumbo?’ However the Crown Prosecution Service insisted the trial should go ahead.

There is a growing feeling that the law in this area is inadequate and needs to be reviewed.

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