Thanks Tony - that raised some interesting points and what was clear is that there is an overwhelming case for choice and self-determination and that people want a change in legislation in this area. The actual question before the panel was on the Ray Gosling 'case'
that prompted very pertinent criticism, along with the case of the Frances Inglis who twice tried to kill her son, in hospital, with heroin overdoses
with a gap of 14 months between the first and the fatal injection. Terry's Dimbleby lecture was brought into the ensuing discussion by one of the panellists.
These two people both acted out of love - Ray Gosling says he had discussed the mercy killing scenario with the person he smothered. Frances Inglis could not discuss that with her son, but decided he would not want to carry on living with extensive brain damage and took steps to end his suffering - the hospital said he was not in distress and pain and his condition may have improved but for her two interventions. These two situations are both tragic, but it's the methods
used that make both actions criminal. Some would say, rightly as well, that Ray and Frances were driven to criminal methods.
Gosling smothered his lover with a pillow. A quick solution for someone in tremendous pain, who had just been given a terrible diagnosis that 'nothing more could be done' for him. Smothering will kill anyone, suffering or no. The hospital might well have had a gentler method so the man could have drifted into death, properly sedated and dosed with painkillers to ease his passing. Ray Gosling killed his lover and may be prosecuted in retrospect for that action. I hope he will not be imprisoned for what he did, because he has already and is continuing to punish himself for what he did.
Frances Inglis' crime is more difficult to emphathise with because of the length of time between her attempts to ease her son's suffering (as she saw it) and the manner of her obtaining the heroin used in both actions. There was without a doubt pre-meditation, which is of course a condition of murder rather than manslaughter. She knew what she was doing and what she wanted to achieve, so she is guilty of attempted murder and murder. This is what she said at her trial...
"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."
She was sentenced to 9 years. I would not have liked to have been on the jury convicting her, but overdosing on herion is not a peaceful death and her son was stablised and not unduly distressed physcially at least. So inevitably she killed him, meant to do that and took rational, if desperate steps to make sure that no attempts to save her son could be made by the hospital the second time. I am reasonably sure she will not serve the 9 years in a prison and that she will, far too late, get the help and support she so obviously needed, seeing her son mute and diminished from the head injuries that he effectively gave himself after falling from the moving ambulance that was taking him to the emergency room after getting badly hurt in a fight.
Those cases were not assisted deaths as Terry envisages and that is why it is such a huge step to bring in legislation to allow his vision to be decriminalised so that desperate, and in Frances Inglis' case, people in total anguish and deranged grief, do not feel moved to kill (there is no other interpretation) in ways that are wildly open to abuse, and in more deceptive ways, by less well-intentioned individuals like Harold Shipman