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Frances Inglis loses appeal but given a reduced sentence

Dignity in Dying comments on ‘mixed result’ for mother who acted
out of compassion,
and calls on Parliament to address this ongoing problem

The Court of Appeal today handed down
judgment on the appeal of Frances Inglis, a mother who gave her brain-damaged
son a lethal heroin injection in order to end his life. The appeal against her
conviction was refused but her minimum sentence was reduced from nine years to

Mrs Inglis was found guilty of murder and
attempted murder on 21st January 2010. Her son Tom sustained severe
brain damage as a result of an accident
in 2007, and had been in a coma ever since.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Whilst we do not condone Mrs Inglis’ actions, given that she
directly ended her son’s life without his consent, it is clear that her motives
were selfless, and we do not think that her actions should be unduly punished
because murder law is not equipped for compassion. We are therefore heartened
by the news that her sentence has been reduced. The previous sentence of nine years in prison was disproportionate to
the crime she committed out of compassion and love for her son. It should be
taken into account that alongside losing her son, Mrs Inglis has already served
nearly two years in prison and is extremely unlikely to reoffend.

“Lord Judge recognised that his judgment was constrained by the
law of murder as it stands, a law which doesn’t distinguish between behaviour
motivated by malice and behaviour motivated by “familial love?. Dignity in
Dying is not calling for the legalisation of ‘mercy killing’, but we are
calling for more distinction to be made in the law between assisted dying,
assisted suicide, euthanasia and murder. But this is ultimately a matter for
Parliament not the Courts.

“Dignity in Dying would like to see a law which allows the choice
of assisted dying for people who are terminally ill and mentally competent. We
believe that ending the life of a non- terminally ill disabled person,
regardless of the severity of their disability, is cause for prosecution. But for
cases which fall outside the framework of assisted dying which we advocate, the
law should be able to react with compassion and flexibility so that sentencing
can reflect the motivation for the crime, and any extenuating circumstances.”

Lord Judge stated in his judgment:

“How the problems of mercy killing, euthanasia and assisting
suicide should be addressed must be decided by Parliament, which, for this
purpose at any rate, should be reflective of the conscience of the nation.”

At present the law only makes two
distinctions in cases of helping another person to die; assisting a suicide or
murder, whereas in reality cases of compassionate assistance to die covers a
broad spectrum of ethically different acts,
from assisted dying to voluntary euthanasia. The law of murder is not an appropriate framework for prosecution of any
such acts. Frances Inglis’ son was unable to communicate
his wishes, or act independently, so
his mother directly ended his life. This
is why she was tried and sentenced under the law of murder, a law which does
not take compassionate motivation into consideration.

Notes to

About Dignity in Dying:

· Dignity
in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access
to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults
with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for
universal access to high quality
end-of-life care.

· Dignity
in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from
donations from the public.

· The
British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of
religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.

in Dying campaigns for the legalisation and regulation of assisted dying – not
assisted suicide, euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’:

assisted dying and assisted suicide the patient takes the final step and
administers life-ending medication. Euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ is when
someone directly ends another’s life for compassionate reasons – with the
person’s consent (voluntary) or without it (non-voluntary). Assisted dying and
assisted suicide is an offence under the 1961 Suicide Act and carries a maximum
prison sentence of 14 years. Euthanasia and ‘mercy killing’ are regarded
by the law as murder and carry a mandatory life penalty.

dying only applies to terminally ill people, unlike assisted suicide, which is
when chronically ill and/or disabled people can be given help to end their
lives. Assisted dying is about giving
dying adults greater control over the time and manner of their death if they
feel their suffering is unbearable.

do not support assisted suicide on demand, and we never provide information on
how to end life. To do so is against the law and while we may not agree
with the current law, we are committed to upholding it. In its place, we would like a specific
safeguarded assisted dying law. We also
believe that assisted suicide and euthanasia/’mercy’ killing should remain
prohibited, but the law should allow flexibility in prosecuting and sentencing
dependant on the circumstances of each case. The Director of Public Prosecutions’ interim guidelines provide such
flexibility for the offence of assisted suicide, but none exists for the
offence of murder.

Compassion in Dying

An Advance Decision is a document that allows you to set out the
treatment decisions you would want to make in advance should you become unable
to communicate with your health team. The refusal of medical treatment,
including life-sustaining treatment, is legally binding with an Advance

Compassion in Dying provides Advance
Decisions to legally refuse treatment at the end of life free of charge at:


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