Gilderdale ME legal case: Media coverage 26 January
It is understood that the case will feature in Panorama on Monday 01 February 2010.
ME agenda is not able to respond to enquiries in connection with the case from members of the public or the media.
Independent | 26 January 2010
Prosecuting suicide-death mother Kay Gilderdale ‘in public interest’
Times | 26 January 2010
The entire front page of today’s Times is devoted to the Gilderdale case with a double page spread on pages 7 and 8.
Jeremy Vine Radio 2
Times | 26 January 2010
26 January 2010
Devoted mother Kay Gilderdale should never have been prosecuted, says judge
A High Court judge has criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions for personally pursuing an attempted murder charge against a “selfless and devoted” mother who helped her acutely ill daughter fulfil her wish to die.
As Kay Gilderdale, pictured right with her daughter, walked free from court yesterday after being cleared unanimously of attempted murder, the trial judge, Mr Justice Bean, repeatedly questioned whether the emotive case had been in the public interest.
Last night, the 55-year-old mother of two spoke for the first time of how her heart had been “ripped apart” between her maternal instinct to save her daughter Lynn, 31, and respect her repeated pleas for help to end 17 years of suffering since she contracted ME.
The former nurse had admitted assisting her daughter’s suicide by giving her 420mg of morphine to inject herself in December 2008.
She was charged with attempted murder after it emerged that she had given Miss Gilderdale medicine to ease her suffering in her final hours.
Only now can it be revealed that during initial legal arguments Judge Richard Brown, who presided over the case before trial, invited the CPS to drop the attempted murder charge.
Referring to her guilty plea to assisted suicide, he asked: “Wouldn’t it be better to accept it now rather than let this defendant get tangled up in a messy trial for the sake of some legal mumbo jumbo?”
The case was reviewed by Keir Starmer, the DPP, after he published guidelines on assisted suicide last September, but the attempted murder charge was not dropped.
Mr Justice Bean’s decision to question Mr Starmer’s role and that of the Crown Prosecution Service will reignite the debate on mercy killings.
The judge thanked the jury for their “common sense, decency and humanity” in choosing to acquit Mrs Gilderdale. Sources close to the family suggested that her trial was used as a test case to sound out public opinion. The CPS remained adamant that its decision to pursue the case was right, saying that the law did not allow mercy killings.
Mrs Gilderdale did not give evidence during the trial. Afterwards, she described the torment of trying to come to terms with a loved one’s repeated pleas to be allowed to die.
“You’re torn apart because you have one part of you wanting to respect your daughter’s wishes and understanding everything they have been through, and you have got your heart being ripped out at the same time because all you want to do is to get them better and keep them alive,” Mrs Gilderdale told the BBC Panorama programme.
“It has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced and will ever experience in my whole life, no matter what happens to me. There will be nothing that will compare to the pain and heartbreak of watching my beautiful daughter leave this world.”
The public gallery at Lewes Crown Court erupted into applause as the jury unanimously cleared Mrs Gilderdale of attempted murder after deliberating for less than two hours following a week-long trial.
Before sentencing her for assisting a suicide, the judge asked who decided to continue with the attempted murder charge. Sally Howes, QC, for the prosecution, replied: “Ultimately the decision was taken by the DPP in consultation in November last year.”
Asked whether it was thought to be in the public interest, she replied: “It was thought at the highest level that this was a case that should be canvassed before the jury.”
The judge released Mrs Gilderdale with a one-year conditional discharge. She replied quietly: “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Outside the court, Stephen Gilderdale 35, said that he was proud of his mother for her “selfless actions”.
The jury had been visibly moved by the account of two parents struggling to come to terms with the realisation that their daughter had lost the will to fight a debilitating condition.
Richard Gilderdale told how his daughter wanted to end her “wretched existence”. On December 2, 2008, he had sent his usual evening text messages to his ex-wife and daughter to see how a new treatment was going. In his final message to his daughter, he said: “Good night. Sleep well. I love you.”
In the early hours of the following day, Miss Gilderdale summoned her mother to her bedroom and pleaded with her to help her kill herself.
Lynn Gilderdale’s moving account of why she decided to end her life
OK guys, I have something really important to say. I want to talk about something extremely private and personal to share with you, my closest friends. After many years of serious deliberation, I have pretty much come to a huge decision. I hope you will try to understand my reasons for this decision and even if you don’t personally agree with it I hope you won’t judge me too harshly.
I don’t know how to begin. I am just going to come out with it. Here goes, deep breaths. Basically I think some of you have known for a while I have had enough of this miserable excuse for a life, of merely semi-existing for the last 16½ years. I have had enough and I want to die. This is no whim and certainly not just because of the reactive depression diagnosed a few months ago. I am no longer on antidepressants because they weren’t doing anything for me.
I really, really, really want to die and have had enough of being so sick and in so much pain every second of everyday and, basically, one serious health crisis after another. I am tired, so very, very tired and I just don’t think I can keep hanging on for that elusive illness-free existence.
I can’t keep hanging for that ever diminishing non-existent hope that one day I will be well again. This is something I have thought long and hard about, and more than once about. I’m sure it’s what I want. I have discussed and continued to discuss with my parents at great length. Although they obviously desperately don’t want me to go, they can see I have just had enough and understand why I can’t keep hanging on for much longer.
A few months ago, some pretty extreme situations arose. Something happened here and I was finally tipped over the edge. I tried to end my life by sticking a syringe straight down into my veins and simultaneously a syringe full of air. This was not a desperate cry for help, it was a serious attempt to end my life. It should have been enough to kill a grown man. No, it didn’t finish me off. Eventually, I have become tolerant to morphine after being on it for years.
All the overdose did was render me unconscious for a few hours until I finally felt Dad shaking me awake.
That was really the first time my parents knew how depressed I was. I had managed to hide it by using my time-worn, fake-happy face, when they are around. I begged my parents not to tell the doctor what I had done. But, I was put on antidepressants.
Drugs have stopped me from crying all the time, but it hasn’t stopped me from my desire not be on this planet any more. Nothing can change my mind. I have since promised I won’t try to kill myself again in secret.
Injecting morphine is the only reliable suicide method I have access to myself. There’s no other possible way to do it on my own.
Dad, he has always hated me talking about it in the past. He was quite heartbroken. He said: “I understand. But what would I do without my best mate?” This made me sob even harder than I already had.
After talking to me for ages, they both were extremely reluctant but agreed that if something life-threatening did happen to me they promised that they would inform the doctors and nurses that I didn’t want to be revived in any circumstances. I refuse to go back for more treatment.
I know there is a slim chance that I could fully recover and live a relatively normal life but even if I wake up tomorrow, I still won’t be able to live the life I dreamt about living.
My ovaries have packed up — I won’t be able to have children, my all time favourite wish.
I am already 31 years old. By the time I have found the man I want to have children with I will be far past the age. I cannot see myself ever being well enough to do any of this.
Also my bones are so osteoporotic that every cough and sneeze could cause a fracture. How can I live the life I have dreamed of; swimming, sailing, running, cycling. The kind of life I had before it was taken away from me at the age of 14.
My body is tired and my spirit is broken. I have had enough. Can you understand that? I hope you can, I really, really do.
In addition to not wanting any life-saving treatment, if I am ever presented with an opportunity to leave this world, I have to admit I will grab it with both hands.
I understand people think I am just depressed or worse — suicide is far from easy in my opinion and recent experience — or they think it is ridiculous of thinking of suicide when there is still a chance I could recover.
I am also painfully aware that I have a couple of special friends with their own terrible diseases.
I was 30 last year, the desire to leave all this pain and sadness behind me has nothing but increased. I want to die so, so much. Mum and I have probably spent hours on and off discussing everything, despite her doing her best to make me see things differently. My resolve to leave this life has done nothing but intensify.
I am sorry. I know this may be a shock to some of you. Try to put yourself in my situation. Read all the newspaper articles online. This is only a tiny part of what I have been through in the past 16 years.
To see what every second of life in intense pain, feeling permanently and extremely ill, not just lying in a bed resting but 100 per cent reliance on others to care for my basic needs. I have survived because of tubes of medicine, pumps and drugs. Without all this modern technology I wouldn’t be here.
Imagine you lived in one small room, in one single bed for 16 years since the age of 14. Imagine being 30 years old and never having kissed someone properly. Yep, I am that pathetic 30-year-old virgin that everyone ridicules.
Imagine having the painful bones of a 100-year-old woman unable to move without risking a fracture. Imagine being unable to get the spinning thoughts out of your head, other than by slowly typing e-mails.
Imagine not being able to turn yourself over in bed or move your legs.
Imagine having to use a bed pan lying down and having your mother wipe your bum for you.
Imagine having never been in a pub or club at 31 years old. Imagine never having been able to fulfil one thing above all else — that thing that should be a right for all young women, the right to have a young child. I know some women are unable to, but it doesn’t stop my heart from aching and the need to hold my own baby.
Imagine being imprisoned inside the miserable existence that is your life.
I don’t have to imagine of that. My body and mind is broken. I am so desperate to end the never-ending carousel of pain and sickness and suffering. I love my family. I have nothing left and I am spent.
How are Mum and Dad coping with all this? They are utterly, utterly heartbroken, naturally. Although I fear they won’t get over losing me and they don’t want me to go, and despite all the pain they must be in every time I discuss this whole thing, they must understand why I’ve had enough of this life and can’t keep hanging on. They both said they would either die or feel the same. I am so lucky to have incredible parents.
I desperately want to die. Mum and Dad know I have made up my mind.
They have made sure repeatedly that this is what I truly want. And now I’m not going to resist temptation if a way of ending my life falls into my lap.
Even though I can’t imagine how hard this must be for them, obviously they won’t want to lose me but they can’t bear for me to suffer any more than I have — that’s true unconditional love. I will never be able to thank them for putting my needs above theirs. However sad it is, it’s going to be my time to go very soon.
November 2008: I am afraid I can’t lie. I still do crave suicide with every fibre of my being. I promised my parents that I won’t attempt to do it in secret again. If the chance falls into my lap I will grab it with both hands. Mum regularly goes through everything with me. I never waver, I just become more and more sure as time passes. I have always stated that if I was unable to make a decision myself the power goes jointly to my parents. I trust them implicitly with my life and death. I know they won’t do the selfish thing in keeping me here purely for themselves.
Gilderdale case prompts fresh calls to clarify the law on assisted dying
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor
One devoted mother who helps her sick daughter to end her life with tablets and morphine walks free from court with a suspended sentence.
Another is jailed for murder, to serve a minimum of nine years, after injecting her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin.
The two contrasting cases have reignited the debate over “right to die” and whether those who assist a loved one to end their suffering should be subject to criminal law.
Both involved a loving parent who could not bear to see a child suffer. Both, therefore, were acts of mercy. But there were key differences: Frances Inglis’s son, Thomas, 22, who had brain damage, had never indicated an intention to die. His mother believed him to be in pain and could not accept an encouraging medical prognosis.
Kay Gilderdale’s daughter, Lynn, 31, had attempted suicide. She had considered it over time and contemplated going to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. When a first attempt at suicide failed, her mother set about trying to help her to end her life.
Last July Keir Starmer, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, outlined 16 “public interest factors” in favour of a prosecution and 13 factors against taking legal action in order to bring clarity to existing assisted suicide legislation.
Mrs Gilderdale was charged not just with attempted assisted suicide but also with attempted murder. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that this was because the evidence suggested that her daughter may not have died from an assisted suicide. “It was not clear cut: there was a sequence of events and the toxicologist could not prove which of these stages resulted in death,” he said.
The case exposed the acute difficulties for prosecutors, judges and juries alike, and adds to the pressure for greater clarity in the law.
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Ultimately, the Government needs to review the law in this area. As this case highlights, at present the law is a mess.”
However, Peter Saunders, director of Care Not Killing, said that the law acted as a powerful deterrent to protect vulnerable people from exploitation and abuse.
Judges should have a wide discretion to temper justice with mercy. Then they can show compassion in hard cases without giving a green light to murder.
Lynn Gilderdale ‘mercy killing’ verdict leads papers
The acquittal of the Sussex nurse Kay Gilderdale – who was accused of murdering her severely ill daughter Lynn – is the lead in several papers.
A judge’s criticism of prosecutors for pursuing the case is the Times’ focus .
It also carries Lynn’s diary entry , in which she says she has “had enough of being so sick and in so much pain”.
The Daily Mail says the case was in “stark contrast” to that of Frances Inglis, jailed for fatally giving her son heroin – as Lynn wanted to die.
Lynn Gilderdale: how a 14-year-old was condemned to a life lived from a bed
At the age of 14, Lynn Gilderdale was the picture of health. Sporty, athletic, she excelled at ballet, pursued her love of horses with vigour and was an accomplished musician.
By Caroline Gammell Published: 7:00AM GMT 26 Jan 2010
Gilderdale on the Isle of Wight, aged 12 Photo: CAIRNS
She swam, she cycled, she played the clarinet and, like a typical teenager, enjoyed spending time with her friends.
But in November 1991, that life came shuddering to an end.
Kay Gilderdale: what is ME?
Kay Gilderdale: assisted suicide, mercy killing and the law
Mother charged with the attempted murder of daughter who suffered with ME
More research is needed to reassure parents about vaccines
She came home from Uplands School in Wadhurst, East Sussex, after a fairly ordinary day, which included a routine inoculation against tuberculosis, and felt unwell.
She never recovered.
Flu was followed by bronchitis, tonsillitis and glandular fever and within three months, her life had changed beyond all recognition.
The teenager lay confined to her bedroom, ME had left her unable to move her legs, swallow or eat. At her most severely ill, she could recognise no one.
She lost the power of speech and had to develop a sign language with her parents that they alone understood.
Her life became ruled by the tubes running down her nose, into her chest and inner thigh, the tubes that fed her and that were a constant reminder that she would never again live a normal life.
Her dreams of returning to the sport she loved, of kissing boys, even of being a mother were crushed one by one. Exchanged for a life reliant on a cocktail of drugs to dull her suffering. It was in her own words: “a miserable excuse for a life”.
At just 20 years old she went through the menopause further eroding her health and her bones became brittle and vulnerable to fracture.
Weeks of suffering turned to months turned to years, and her hopes that she would one day get better, that there would be a cure, were ground down by endless hospital visits and fitful sleep.
But as Miss Gilderdale steadily lost all belief that she would ever get better, there was one person constantly by her side.
At the age of 37, her mother Kay gave up all semblance of a normal life – her work in accounting, holidays and friends – to care round the clock for her daughter.
In 2002, her marriage to Miss Gilderdale’s father Richard collapsed after nearly 30 years, although he remained devoted to his daughter and on friendly terms with his former wife.
For nearly two decades, mother and daughter remained cocooned in their unassuming brick bungalow in the small village of Stonegate, East Sussex.
Visitors – save that of her father and her older brother Stephen – were rare and, in any event, unwelcome because of the noise and potential infection they could bring.
Every morning, her Irish-born mother greeted her in hushed tones, keeping the cotton curtains of her bedroom drawn, regardless of the weather outside because her daughter’s condition meant she could tolerate neither noise nor light.
Resting on a sheepskin rug spread over her sheets to try and prevent bedsores, she would call to her mother for her every need. She required help with the simplest of tasks, such as wanting to turn over in her own bed.
A trained auxiliary nurse, Mrs Gilderdale would come swiftly, responding to her daughter’s voice calling to her from the intercom set up between the bedroom and the sitting room.
They had set up the system to make her daughter feel part of the house. The four walls of her bedroom, cluttered with medical paraphernalia to keep her alive and soft toys to lift her spirits, was her only domain.
Her one concession to the outside world was her computer, with a keyboard small enough to rest on her legs and allow her to communicate with friends.
These were not conventional friends. Most of them she had never met but their lives were all ruined by illness as hers was and as part of an online community, they shared their suffering and found comfort with each other. It was to these people that she revealed her darkest thoughts in an online journal.
But the computer offered solace and happiness as well. She used it to buy presents for her virtual friends as well as family.
Shortly before she died, her father helped her book tickets to the musical Oliver! and a night in a hotel in London for her mother. It was her way of saying thank you for all she had done.
Miss Gilderdale knew only two other environments – the inside of an ambulance and hospital, where she would end up most winters because she was so prone to infection.
During her final hospital visit, she picked up not one but four infections, including one which led to the indignity of being forced to use a bedpan for hours at a time.
It was this constant illness that made life so intolerable. Miss Gilderdale decided she wanted to die and drew up a living will in which she said she feared “degeneration and indignity more than death”.
An attempt to take her own life in 2007 failed, as the morphine she injected was not enough. Her father found her, nearly unconscious, and shook her awake.
She talked to her parents about suicide and what it would mean but it hurt her. Talking to her father, a retired police officer with Sussex Constabulary, about ending her life made her sob. He told her he didn’t want to lose her. But they understood her depths of despair.
Mr Gilderdale, who broke down in tears during his time in the witness box, spoke fondly of his daughter’s good looks, her long dark hair framing her fragile, pale face. But even that had been taken away from her in the last months of her life as her face began to swell.
On the morning of December 3, 2008, she decided she had had enough. Dressed in blue and white checked pyjamas, she called to her mother at 1.45am and told her she could not go on. Mrs Gilderdale tried to persuade her daughter otherwise but failed and at 3am she gave her daughter two large doses of morphine, with which she injected herself.
Miss Gilderdale thought the drug would bring her peace.
For her mother, the ordeal which would see her in court 13 months later, had only just begun. Over the next 30 hours, she neither slept nor ate, tending to her daughter as she clung on to life.
Scouring the internet for information, she gave Miss Gilderdale sleeping pills, antidepressants and further doses of morphine to try and make her comfortable. By 7.10am on December 4, her daughter was dead, aged 31.
She had kept everyone away from the house and when her daughter finally slipped away, an exhausted Mrs Gilderdale finally contacted the world outside.
She sent a text to Lynn’s father. It read: “Please can you come now. Be careful. Don’t rush.”