No Charges For Brother Who Watched 26 Hours As Sister Died
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 19, 2005
KENT, ENGLAND--A man who watched his sister's 26-hour suicide attempt was not charged with a crime, British media reported Wednesday.
Graham Lawson, 35, sat by while his 48-year-old sister, Sue Lawson, took an overdose of medication and then tried -- eight times -- to suffocate herself with plastic bags.
"She got to the point every time where she had to take a breath and pulled the bag off," he said.
He explained that her suicide began at 3:00 one afternoon and that she finally died at about 5.30 the following afternoon.
Ms. Lawson, a former bank manager, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 years earlier. Her brother said she used a wheelchair and was upset that she could not take care of herself.
After she finally succeeded in killing herself, Mr. Lawson carried his sister's body to her bedroom and arranged her body "so that she looked nice" on her bed.
Police arrested and jailed Mr. Lawson for 24 hours because he failed to call the 999 emergency number for an ambulance. He later said he did not know that he could have faced up to 14 years in prison for assisting in his sister's suicide.
The date of Ms. Lawson's death was not given in several accounts. It was reported, however, that the prosecutor announced last April, five months after Ms. Lawson's death, that no charges would be filed against her brother.
Mr. Lawson, identified initially in reports simply as "David", had decided to keep the case quiet until this week, following the news that Brian Blackburn would not serve any prison time for killing his wife.
Mr. Blackburn, 62, admitted on October 15 to slicing the wrists of himself and 62-year-old Margaret Blackburn as part of a suicide pact. While his wife bled to death, Mr. Blackburn's blood coagulated and he survived.
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 the judge then suspended.
Deborah Annetts, head of Britain's Voluntary Euthanasia Society used the opportunity to portray Mr. Lawson and Mr. Blackburn as victims of what she called a "cruel law".
"David's arrest shows how vulnerable the law makes us," she told the Press Association.
Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of the anti-euthanasia group, Alert, told the Guardian that Mr. Lawson should have been prosecuted for the crime.
"There is a new attitude emerging in society that if there is something wrong with someone they should be got rid of as soon as possible," she said. "Instead, they should be offered support."
"I think this man ought to face prosecution but there also needs to be much better information about disease so that people can be helped and don't despair."
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.
"No Action Against Man Who Watched Sister Kill Herself" (The Scotsman)
Alert: Defending Vulnerable People's Right To Live