‘Mercy killing’ is murder, a senior judge has said, ruling on a case of a mother who killed her brain-damaged son.
Frances Inglis claimed she had acted “with love” when she injected the severely disabled 22-year-old with a lethal dose of heroin in 2008. In January this year she was convicted of murder.
Judges at the Court of Appeal said that life is precious regardless of how disabled that life is, and dismissed her appeal against the conviction.
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Judge said: “However disabled Thomas might have been, a disabled life, even a life lived at the extremes of disability, is not one jot less precious than the life of an able-bodied person.
“His life was protected by the law, and no one, not even his mother, could lawfully step in and bring it to a premature conclusion.”
Lord Judge said Mrs Inglis’ actions were “deliberate and premeditated”.
The judges did reduce Mrs Inglis’ minimum sentence from nine years to a minimum of five years, a move which pro-euthanasia group Dignity in Dying welcomed.
In the ruling, Lord Judge said the right place for decisions to be made about assisted suicide, mercy killing and euthanasia was in Parliament.
Lord Judge said the justices cannot “amend” or “ignore” the law as it currently stands.
Parliament has twice rejected attempts to weaken the law on assisted suicide in recent years.
Mrs Inglis’ son, Thomas, was injured in 2007 but she refused to accept an encouraging prognosis by a doctor and was convinced that he was in constant pain.
Lord Judge said Mrs Inglis believed Thomas was in a “cabbage state”.
Her view was opposite to that of the family and they became increasingly concerned about her, the judge said. Her eldest son Alex had told a court earlier this year that his mother was “in a crazy state”.
In 2008, when she injected Thomas with heroin, she superglued the door of his hospital room shut to prevent nurses coming in and reviving him. She had previously tried to kill him in 2007.
The judges ruled that her appeal against her conviction was “not arguable”.
Commenting on the case, Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “If we were to change the law to decriminalise mercy killing (in this case involuntary euthanasia) we would be removing legal protection from all vulnerable people whose lives are judged by some other person as not worth living.
“We would be saying that one person, on the basis of such a judgement, should be able to break into a hospital ward and kill them ‘out of compassion’ and get off scot-free.
“The effect would be to encourage more acts of this kind. It is precisely for this reason that the law against mercy killing, even for so-called compassionate motives, must stay firmly in place.”