19th October 2006
Dignity in Dying comment on David March sentencing
The law on assisted dying is inhumane and is not working – it must be changed
David March was today granted a 12-month suspended sentence for helping his wife Gillian, who suffered from MS for 20 years, to die.
Commenting on the decision, Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“These sorts of cases are not best dealt with under criminal law. At a time when he should have been treated compassionately and allowed to grieve for his wife in peace, David March was arrested, charged with murder and had to wait over a year to know if he would be spending the next 14 years in prison.
“This terribly sad case shows once again how the law is failing terminally ill people and their loved ones. Evidence from the authorities in Oregon in the USA shows that the assisted dying legislation there has prevented many violent suicides. Our law denies people like Gillian March this reassurance. It must change to allow terminally ill, mentally competent people to ask a doctor for help to die at a time and place of their choosing.
“A change in the law would also spare people such as David March from the terrible responsibility of deciding between their conscience and the law when a loved one asks for help to die. The law is inhumane and it is not working – it must be changed.”
Dignity in Dying is the leading organisation campaigning for patient choice at the end-of-life.
Contact Davina Hehir 020 7937 7781 or 07725 433025
Figures from Oregon patient based body, Compassion and Choices, show that of 94 people who were prevented from committing suicide between 1998 and 2005, 50 went on to die of natural causes. See http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/news/news.asp?id=196 for more details.
Home Office statistics show that a third of all “mercy killers” go on to kill themselves. Many more face problems with drug and alcohol addiction (Crime and Policing Group, Research Development Statistics Directorate, Home Office).