Wednesday 22 November 2017

Devoted mother helped daughter to die with lethal drugs cocktail, court hears

Woman stricken with ME for 17 years was handed morphine and syringes

Mark Hughes

A DEVOTED mother helped her suffering daughter die by handing her a lethal dose of morphine and then administering a deadly cocktail of drugs, a British court heard yesterday.

Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale, known as Kay, gave two syringes of morphine to her 31-year-old daughter, Lynn Gilderdale, who injected the medicine herself in a suicide attempt at the family home in Heathfield, East Sussex.

When she realised the dosage had not been enough, Mrs Gilderdale administered more drugs, Lewes Crown Court was told.

Over the next 30 hours she gave her daughter tablets, further doses of morphine and finally syringes of air. Lynn Gilderdale, who had suffered from the debilitating illness ME for 17 years, died on the morning of 4 December 2008. Her mother denies attempted murder, but has admitted aiding and abetting suicide.

The case comes to court three months after the Crown Prosecution Service clarified the law on assisted suicide, outlining cases where there could be a public interest to prosecute. The Director of Public Prosecutions listed 15 factors which should be considered.

Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, told jurors it was not their task to judge the "motive or morals" of Mrs Gilderdale or "to choose where your sympathies lie". "It is your job to decide whether the actions of Kay Gilderdale fell outside the law," she said.

The court was told Ms Gilderdale was struck down with ME at the age of 14. She became bedridden and lost the ability to swallow, which meant she had to be fed through a nasogastric tube. As her condition worsened, she was said to have become distrustful of the medical profession and became dependent on her mother and other carers.

The court heard a "turning point" came in October 2005 when Ms Gilderdale was admitted to hospital to have her catheter changed. During the procedure her lung was punctured and filled with blood. She was placed on life support and was unconscious for three weeks.

Ms Howes said: "This traumatic experience and her lengthy hospital stay was a turning point, and she had a subsequent wish not to be resuscitated if she was in that position again."

The court heard that, in the early hours of 3 December, Miss Gilderdale called out to her mother, saying she had not administered enough morphine. Her mother spoke with her for about an hour, telling her it was "not the right time", but Ms Gilderdale insisted it was time for her "to go".

At about 3am, Kay Gilderdale gave her daughter two syringes of morphine with which to inject herself. Three hours later, Mrs Gilderdale inserted some crushed tablets into her daughter's nasogastric tube. At 2am on 4 December, she gave her daughter two or three doses of morphine and later injected her with three syringes of air.

Ms Howes said Mrs Gilderdale then telephoned the assisted suicide organisation, Exit, for advice, before giving her daughter a further eight tablets. Lynn Gilderdale died at 7.10am that morning and left no suicide note.

The court heard that Ms Gilderdale had accessed the website of Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide clinic, more than a year before her death. She had also instructed a solicitor to draft a "living will" in which she stated she did not wish to be resuscitated or subjected to any medical intervention if her quality of life was too poor. The trial continues.

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