Devoted mothers in English “mercy killings”

Mrs Francis InglisAssisted suicide is never long out of the headlines in England, it seems. This week they featured two devoted mothers who killed their disabled children. In the first case, 57-year-old Frances Inglis was sentenced to life imprisonment for giving her brain-damaged 22-year-old son Thomas a lethal dose of heroin in November 2008. She will have to serve a minimum sentence of 9 years.

In 2007 Thomas was injured in a brawl and taken unwillingly to a hospital by ambulance. He jumped out while it was moving and ended up with severe brain damage. She believed that since then he had been living a life of "horror, pain and tragedy'' and she was determined to bring it to an end. In September 2007 she injected her son with heroin, but he was resuscitated. She denied her involvement after she was arrested. While on bail for attempted murder, she obtained 10 packets of heroin for £200, and injected him again.

Mrs Inglish told the court that she had no choice: "The definition of murder is to take someone's life with malice in your heart. I did it with love in my heart for Tom, so I don't see it as murder. I knew what I was doing was against the law." However, prosecuting lawyer Miranda Moore said in her closing statement: "It is a tragic case but it is not a defence to murder to end someone's life to put them out of their misery.''

In a similar case which is still being tried, 55-year-old Kay Gilderdale gave her 31-year-old daughter sleeping pills, anti-depresssants and morphine to help her to commit suicide. Her daughter Lynn had been mute and bed-ridden since she was 14 after contracting myalgic encephalomyelitis.

The two stories have common features. Both women were separated from their husbands, with whom they were still on good terms, but they made the decision alone after working themselves into a frenzy of compassion. And both relied upon the internet for finding information about their children's condition and how to kill them. Mrs Gilderdale was reading about euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke as her daughter was dying. -- London Telegraph, Jan 20; BBC, Jan 20


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