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Suspended sentence for man who assisted wife’s suicide

1 February 2008

Suspended sentence for man who assisted wife’s suicide

Leading campaign group welcomes the judge’s decision but warns that the current law “fails the terminally ill”

A man has left court with a suspended sentence after assisting the suicide of his terminally ill wife.

53-year-old Robert Cook, from Crawley, was given a 12 month suspended sentence for two years after the judge concluded that he acted out of “diminished responsibility”.

Robert’s wife, Vanessa, suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and, according to the judge, she had “reached the end of her personal endurance”. Having tried to commit suicide several times previously, Vanessa had begged her husband to ensure that she died.

Dignity in Dying is the UK’s leading organisation campaigning for a change in the law to allow the option of medical assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“Today marks the end of a sad and long, drawn-out process. At a time when he should have been treated with compassion and been allowed to grieve for his wife in peace, Robert Cook was arrested, charged with murder and forced to wait months to know whether or not he would be sent to prison.

“The current law is failing terminally ill people and their loved ones. 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.

“Evidence from the authorities in Oregon in the USA shows that the assisted dying legislation there has prevented many violent suicides. Not only this, but it has given many people the reassurance that, if their condition ever becomes too much to bear, they have the option of dying peacefully, painlessly and surrounded by loved ones.

“It is common sense that the law needs to be changed if sad cases like this one are to be avoided.”

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About Dignity in Dying:

Dignity in Dying is the leading organisation in the UK that advocates assisted dying for terminally ill patients and campaigns for greater patient choice at the end of life.
The organisation is also the country’s leading provider in information on end-of-life issues.
Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population support a change in the law on assisted dying.
An interview with Ashley Riley is available to download at http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/aboutus/.

Media contacts:

For all media enquiries, please contact Jessica Tomlin on 020 7479 7736 or 07725 433025 or on Jessica.Tomlin@dignityindying.org.uk