Shockingly, even today, it appears that the British courts can get it right. Their record in dealing with “mercy killings” provides evidence that we do not need the blunt instrument of a new law legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide.
Robert Cook, 60, suffocated his wife of 29 years with a plastic bag after she took an overdose. Vanessa Cook had worsening multiple sclerosis and had written of her wish to die. On Friday her husband received a 12-month suspended sentence, after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility. The judge called it an exceptional case. Last November Stephen Jobling, 52, was also given a 12-month suspended sentence after a bungled suicide pact with his ailing 72-year-old wife. Both survived taking a drug overdose.
Not all “mercy killings” are seen in the same way. Last May a jury found Frank Lund, 52, guilty of murder for smothering his wife. Patricia Lund, 62, suffered from depression and irritable bowel syndrome, but was not terminally ill. The judge called the case “highly unusual, if not unique” and imposed a tariff of only three years.