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.



  1. We are answerable to God finally but we have to live HERE now. Everyone is different and copes in different ways with whatever life throws. My second child was born with Spina Bifida and was taken miles away for treatment. In her short life (16months) we lost count of the operations she endured; we were signing blank consent forms so the hospital could do whatever was required and did not think to question this. A few years later I met a mother who had faced similar circumstances but refused consent and her child died within weeks. We both struggled with our memories and drew a little help from each others pain. I have lost touch with her as this was almost 40 years ago now but these life/death decisions are made by many to this day and my heart goes out to all who face this horror. For me I have been unable to come to terms with my past but I urge others to try. There is no way of knowing what is right or wrong – just a decision to be made and a future to be lived —– or not.

    1. Your children must have been born about the same time as mine, Gillian. I think then we were not as likely to question or challenge what was done, or recommended, by professionals, especially health professionals. We just assumed for the most part that they knew best: the mother who refused consent for her child to be treated would have been in the minority, I should think. Nowadays there seems to be more emphasis on involving us in our own health care decisions which is a positive thing, but still has its own consequences. I consider myself very fortunate, so far, never to have had to make these hard choices.

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