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Mother who helped ME daughter die walks free

A mother has walked free from court after being cleared of the attempted murder of her disabled daughter, in a case in which the judge personally praised the jury for its humane verdict.

Bridget Gilderdale (55) faced a lifelong prison sentence for giving her daughter Lynn morphine and a cocktail of drugs to help end her life, which the court had been told had been wrecked by ME for 17 years.

As the jury returned its not guilty verdict, Mrs Gilderdale shouted "yes" and was immediately besieged by family and friends, while the public gallery erupted in cheers.

Mrs Gilderdale, known as Kay, then smiled and said: "Thank you, thank you".

Mr Justice Bean, the judge hearing the case, turned to the jury and said: "I do not normally comment on the verdicts of juries, but in this case their decision shows common sense, decency and humanity."

Speaking to Mrs Gilderdale he added: "Your daughter was intelligent and capable of making her own decisions. She had made a living will and contemplated suicide. You and your husband Richard respected her for it but did not encourage her. You only took any further action when you were concerned she would suffer."

Outside Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex, England, Mrs Gilderdale's son, Steve, said the verdict reflected the "selfless actions" of his mother after her 31-year-old daughter decided to end her life, saying her body had been left "broken" by the chronic fatigue illness ME. The trial heard Mrs Gilderdale was devoted mother to her daughter, who was struck down by ME at the age of 14 and required round-the-clock care at their home in Stonegate, near Heathfield, East Sussex.

Mr Justice Bean had earlier questioned the prosecution over whether it was in the public interest to pursue the case for attempted murder when Mrs Gilderdale had already admitted aiding and abetting suicide, for which she had been given a 12 month conditional discharge.

The case offers a stark contrast with that of Frances Inglis (57) who last week was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her disabled son.

Last night, law reform groups called for a change to homicide rules so that those who act out of compassion are not charged with murder.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: "There is a clear ethical difference between assisted dying, assisted suicide, euthanasia and murder, yet the law makes little distinction between these acts."

The trial heard that Miss Gilderdale, who was once an active, sporty and musical girl, led an "unimaginably wretched" life in her later years. She was paralysed from the waist down, unable to speak, eat or drink and was fed through a tube.

Her parents, who were divorced but remained supportive of her, communicated with her through a form of sign language they had devised. Lynn was bed-bound, socially isolated, unable to sit up and had attempted suicide in the past.

In the early hours of December 3 2008, she took an overdose of morphine by injecting it directly into her vein. Mrs Gilderdale said she only acted to help her daughter.

hnews@herald.ie


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