Critics have raised the alarm after a High Court judge only handed down a nine-month suspended sentence to a man who killed his father with a lethal combination of morphine and insulin.
Mr Justice Green claimed that pharmacist Bipin Desai was “wrongfully accused” of murder, because his father had “a solid and firm wish to die”. Instead, the judge sentenced him for assisting a suicide.
Bipin’s lawyer said his client’s 85-year-old father wanted to die “not because he was terribly ill” but “because he had just had enough of life” following his wife’s death.
Dr Anthony McCarthy, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said it was a “shocking” decision by the judge: “Are we now to believe that the killing of an innocent and vulnerable human being who is ‘tired of life’ is not to be regarded as a serious crime?
“What now of any respect for laws and investigations which seek to protect the ineliminable value of all human lives, regardless of feelings of sadness and loss on the victim’s part which may perhaps respond to loving care and professional help?”
Former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe said she was “filled with unease about the precedent the case sets”.
“Depression following bereavement is normal at any age but I need a lot of convincing that it is or ever should be a ground for euthanasia”, Widdecombe wrote in the Daily Express.
Are we now to believe that the killing of an innocent and vulnerable human being who is ‘tired of life’ is not to be regarded as a serious crime?
The law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland states that any person who intentionally encourages or assists the suicide or attempted suicide of another person can be sent to prison for a maximum of 14 years.
Mr Justice Green ordered the jury to clear Bipin of murder after being told that he placed the high dose of morphine into his diabetic father’s fruit smoothie, and went on to inject him with insulin as he slept.
The morphine sedated his father and a high dose of insulin provoked a rapid drop in blood sugar, causing his brain to shut down.
Bipin was also acquitted of two charges of theft for taking the insulin and morphine from his own medical practice. The judge described the stealing as “trivial”.
In 2015, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons.
Critics warned at the time that any change in the law would put vulnerable people under pressure to kill themselves for fear of being a burden on their family members.