Posted by: Witch Doctor | February 3, 2010

Why the charge of attempted murder?


The Witch Doctor said this in a recent post.

“Incidentally, The Witch Doctor knows quite a lot of people who have told her they have ME or chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Without exception, all of them have had a very caring and concerned relative looking after them.”

This is a statement of fact. There may well be people diagnosed as having ME who are isolated with no support, or those whose support has withered away, but they have never crossed my path.

A recent commenter took this a stage further:

“Witchdoctor implies that ME sufferers are ill as they are milking the attention of their caring relatives. Does she think poor Lynn Gilderdale was doing this?”

I don’t know if Lynn Gilderdale was milking the attention of her caring relatives. Since she was not my patient and I have not seen her medical notes, I do not even know that I would have agreed with the diagnosis of ME. I do not know whether the post mortem findings have been conclusive in giving an accurate diagnosis of this woman’s underlying condition that ultimately caused her so much pain.

Importantly, however, this court case indicates that many members of society do not disapprove of a mother assisting the suicide of a patient who has been diagnosed with ME and wanted to die. Many kindly people say they have been touched by the compassion shown by the mother in this story, and compassionate she may well have been. But I don’t know about her compassion or lack of it any more than I know whether the daughter was milking the attention of the family or whether the diagnosis was one of ME or not.

I just don’t know.

I may find myself forming an opinion about all of these things based on very superficial information, but the fact is I don’t know.

Since I don’t know I should go easy on any emotional response that I might feel because aiding and abetting suicide and attempted murder are very serious matters. This case may well set a precedent that has consequences that were never intended.

That is why The Witch Doctor and probably some other medical bloggers seem to have a cool response to the emotion this case seems to be generating.

Many people who have allowed themselves to touched emotionally by this case are indignant that Kay Gilderdale was subsequently charged with attempted murder in addition to aiding an abetting suicide.

But others are indignant about the charge of attempted murder for quite a different reason.

It seems to The Witch Doctor that they think there is some spinning going on.

Indeed an early day motion has been submitted to parliament by Ann Widdecombe.

“Early Day Motion
EDM 723


Widdecombe, Ann

That this House notes the tragic case of Lynn Gilderdale and the fact that her mother, Kay, was charged with assisted suicide for helping to end her life; further notes that 110 people from the UK have flown to Switzerland for the purpose of assisted suicide and not one person accompanying them has had to face being charged in court because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided against it on the grounds that it would have been against the public interest; further notes, however, that although the situation of Lynn and Kay Gilderdale was more stressful and tragic than most of the cases where people were flown to Switzerland, the DPP decided to bring charges against Mrs Gilderdale, a decision questioned by the judge and many commentators for her; further notes, however, that the DPP’s decision was taken shortly after the publication of his Guidelines of Assisted Suicide which have been heavily criticised by senior members of the legal profession, parliamentarians and public commentators on the grounds that they jeopardise the right to life of the vulnerable sick and disabled; further notes that the case has been used as a showpiece to promote the legalisation of assisted suicide and of the DPP’s Assisted Suicide Guidelines; and calls on the Government to require from the DPP the grounds on which he decided to pursue Mrs Gilderdale, whose case accords with all the conditions listed in the Guidelines as justifiable for not bringing a prosecution.”

Regardless of any underlying reason for pursuing the charge of attempted murder, The Witch Doctor still thinks the DPP was right to do so. Indeed she feels the legal system would have been found wanting if he had not done so.

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  1. An excellent post, Witch Doctor. But Dr No thinks there be smoke and mirrors going on. He thinks the DPP might be rather cunning – see here.

  2. Yes, I think you are probably correct and I think AW is no fool.

  3. Ann Widdecombe is a member of the cross party Parliamentary Pro Life Committee. She also opposed the Mental Capacity bill. And you’re right. She is no fool. What I cannot understand is how it can be legal for the DPP to issue guidelines on prosecuting for assisted suicide or any other situation. The guidelines that they are meant to use are the law as it stands. It’s the business of Parliament to decide the law, not the DPP. What the DPP decides is whether a case is competent or not under present law. It’s highly irregular.

  4. Your view seems straightforward Julie, so it makes me wonder why the DPP did what he did.

    Lord Warner asked a question for short debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday:

    “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to holding an independent inquiry to examine the evidence relating to a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill adults.”

    My Black Cat, being a suspicious soul, would say there might be some social engineering going on!

    Silly cat!

    But you can see why she might think like that, I suppose.

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