THE FRONT page story in The Times today tells of the acquittal on an attempted murder charge of the mother who helped her sick daughter to die. The daughter had begged her mother to help her out of the pain-ridden misery she had endured for 17 years as a result of the ME that struck her when she was just 14. Most commentators voice, or reflect, sympathy for the mother. I find it hard to be judgmental about this, never having faced such an agonising decision myself.
On balance, i have deep sympathy with anyone in that position. But not quite so much for the mother whose case has been described by some as ‘comparable’ – who gave her brain-damaged son a lethal injection of heroin because she believed he was in terrible pain and had no chance of recovery.
The difference, surely, is obvious. The first mother had not only her daughter’s consent, but was specifically fulfilling her wishes. The second could not possibly have known what her son wanted as he was deeply unconscious and, apparently, in a so-called vegetative state. Mercy and sympathy notwithstanding, I don’t believe any of us has the right to take such a decision on behalf of another human being while ever there is a chance, however slim, that they might after all survive. Helping someone to do what they cannot do themselves – namely, take their own life – is one thing. Deciding to do it regardless of their wishes is another.
In both cases I think it was right that they went before the courts and faced the full process of the law.