Graham Mansfield, whom the BBC refers to as the “failed suicide pact killer,” has been released from jail and is now calling upon the UK to change its laws regarding assisted suicide. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal under UK law and may be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.
Mansfield slit both his and his wife Dyanne’s throats after her lung cancer spread to her lymph nodes. Mansfield said: “[W]e were in bed and Dyanne said to me, ‘When it gets too bad, don’t leave me to go into hospital.’ She said: ‘I can’t stand it. Please do something about it, kill me.’ I said ‘I can’t live without you,’ and we made a pact that I would do the killing.”
Despite his attempt, Mansfield was unsuccessful in killing himself, but he succeeded in killing Dyanne. He pleaded not guilty to both murder and manslaughter, claiming “his actions were lovingly undertaken through duress of circumstances or necessity for the purpose of avoiding any further severe pain and suffering.”
Speaking outside the court after he was sentenced to two years (suspended), Mansfield said his wife “shouldn’t have had to die in such barbaric circumstances… that is what we had to resort to … Nobody should have to go through what we went through.” He added that “[s]ome form of euthanasia with terminal illness” should be “a priority,” and that “the sooner that happens the better this country will be.”
However, experts in countries that currently permit assisted suicide have pointed out the dangers for abuse.
Ramona Coelho, a family doctor in Ontario, Canada, noted that many vulnerable patients experience a “period of known suicidality,” rather than a constant desire to die. “I warned that many injuries and illnesses are accompanied by transient suicidality that ends with adaptation and support but on average, [lasts for] two years. The overwhelming majority of persons after those two years rate their quality of life as the same as age-matched healthy individuals,” she said.
Along the same lines, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing found that 72% of people who expressed the desire to die changed their minds after their feelings of depression and loneliness were treated and improved.
Furthermore, assisted suicide laws like those in Canada have resulted in patients being pressured to “choose” assisted suicide.
Similarly, Dr. Maria Cigolini, Clinical Director of Palliative Medicine at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, which also allows assisted suicide, explained that “as more hospice and elder care organizations offer voluntary assisted dying (VAD), many people will avoid seeking the treatment they need for fear that they may be coerced into dying.” She noted:
In some hospitals in Victoria, even though [healthcare professionals] can conscientiously object, there is no protection for that. It may create a situation where somebody is being killed in a palliative care unit and most of the staff will be expected to cope with that situation and prepare everybody as if nothing is happening. The moral distress that will create, and the idea that people may be worried that they may be next; the safety of the care environment may be compromised and create fears and distress in nurses, doctors, and patients and residents themselves.
As these and many other instances demonstrate, legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia is not the compassionate outcome for those who are sick and suffering. The truly loving option is to treat suicidality and pain, rather than killing the sufferer.
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