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Husband Gets No Jail Time For Killing Wife
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 14, 2005

LONDON, ENGLAND--A retired police officer was released from jail Friday after receiving a suspended sentence for killing his wife.

Brian Blackburn, 62, called police on the evening of October 15 to report that that morning he had slit the wrists of both his wife and himself as part of a suicide pact. While one cut on his wife's wrist sliced through her vein, causing her to bleed to death, Mr. Blackburn's blood coagulated and he survived. He was treated at a local hospital and released.

Margaret Blackburn, a 62-year-old former hospice nurse, had stomach cancer and reportedly pleaded with her husband to kill her -- before killing himself -- rather than allow her to go to a hospital for treatment. An autopsy later revealed a 6 1/2 pound tumor in her stomach, .

Mr. Blackburn pleaded guilty of manslaughter. Even though Britain's Suicide Act 1961 makes it a crime to help another commit suicide, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, Blackburn received a two-year sentence which Judge Richard Hawkins suspended.

At Friday's sentencing, Judge Hawkins told Blackburn: "I accept that your relationship with her was a thoroughly loving relationship."

The judge added that, while there were exceptional circumstances in this case, taking someone else's life was a serious matter.

Euthanasia advocates seized the opportunity to call for a change in the law to make assisted suicide legal in the United Kingdom.

According to the BBC, Deborah Annetts, head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said that if it had been legal, Mrs. Blackburn would have had a gentle, dignified death.

"Mr. Blackburn would not have had to end her life, then face a lengthy and traumatic police investigation and trial," Annetts said.

Several disability rights groups have opposed making such "mercy killings" legal. They argue that doing so would open the door to people with some disabilities being legally put to death or pressured to kill themselves because they are considered a "burden" on society or to have "lives not worth living". In places that have legalized assisted suicide, many of those who have been helped to kill themselves have not been in the final stages of terminal illness, despite the safeguards written into the laws.

"Suicide pact husband spared jail" (BBC News)
"Ten myths about assisted suicide" (Spiked Online - December 17, 2004)


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