Mercy killing and two women

Two cases of mercy killing came to court in early 2010. Bridget Gilderdale was cleared of murder for assisting her daughter to commit suicide, while Frances Inglis was jailed for killing her son.

What moral differences are there between these two cases? You can read some of the letters written in response to these two cases, and then write your own.

Note: there was a Panorama programme following the case of Bridget Gilderdale and giving the background to her daughter’s illness (Feb 2010).

Read this article from The Independent (26 January 2010) by Robert Verkaik about the outcomes of these two  assisted suicide cases.

Exercise:

Letter 1: A case for murder

Mrs Inglis murdered her son.

There is no evidence that he wished for death, and it must be assumed that he had no such wish. Further, even if he did want to end his suffering, the fact that brain injury recovery is a very long process, means that time may well have healed him anyway. Mrs Inglis chose to deny time the opportunity to heal her boy. She now has the time to look at herself. If killing Thomas Inglis was ‘the right thing to do’, then knowing her actions were right will sustain her through the next few years. If killing Thomas Inglis was NOT ‘the right thing to do’, then Mrs Inglis is where she belongs.

Letter 2: Mrs Inglis is heroic

The disparity in the justice meted out between the two cases is appalling. Mrs Inglis has been let down and railroaded. We have all heard medical services muttering and pretending there are slight improvements etc while the patient twists and dies second by eternal second. They paint a false picture of a world where there is always a happy ending. Mrs Inglis saw through this, she set her son free, a heroic and great act of love and compassion. I gave you life, and I can take it away? How horrific!

Letter 3: Both are guilty

Had Mrs Inglis exercised compassion, she would surely have appreciated that her son might well have preferred the chance of recovering to enjoy a rewarding, independent life, as anticipated by the medical staff treating him. She most definitely was not exercising mercy when she denied him that chance. She persisted in her attempts to end his life, for reasons of her own, until she succeeded, and was therefore rightly convicted of murder. Why was she not kept away from his bedside after her first attempt? Mrs Gilderdale brought about the death of her daughter, and should have been convicted of assisted suicide. The disparity in the outcomes of the trials IS appalling; both women should be behind bars.

Letter 4: Write your own response to the cases of Mrs Inglis and Mrs Gilderdale

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