Citing 'Exceptional Circumstances', Judge Lets 'Mercy Killer' Husband
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 20, 2006
LONDON, ENGLAND--One day last September, David March came home to fix lunch for his wife, Gillian.
When he found her slumped in her wheelchair with a plastic bag over her head, Mr. March tightened the string around her neck.
Then he sat with her for a half hour waiting for her to die.
Police charged March with murder, but prosecutors later accepted his guilty plea to a charge of assisting in a suicide, which carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence. Prosecutors said they had little hope of winning a conviction on the murder charge after a medical examiner said it could not be proven that Mrs. March would have survived if her husband had not sealed the plastic bag.
Mr. March, 58, walked free Thursday after Judge Brian Barker, citing "exceptional circumstances", sentenced him to just 9 months in jail, then suspended that sentence. Barker did order March to perform 50 hours of unpaid community service -- at a multiple sclerosis therapy center where he is already the chairman.
"Your wife was determined to . . . take her own life when she felt she had become too much of a burden," Barker told March. "You were a husband who not only had a deep love for his wife but who displayed a selfless devotion to her. Society may understand your acts but cannot condone them."
Gillian March, 59, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early 1980s, had reportedly tried to commit suicide in June 2004 and June 2005. She wrote that she felt she was a burden to her husband, and wanted him to be free to marry before he got too old to find love again.
Euthanasia supporters called the March case another example where assisted suicide needs to be made legal in the United Kingdom.
But Simone Aspis, of the British Council of Disabled People, responded: "What kind of message is this sending out to society where it is perceived to be easier to kill a disabled person rather than support them to live with dignity?"
For years, disability rights advocacy groups have campaigned to make or keep assisted suicide illegal, noting that many people who are helped to die are not in the final stages of terminal illness, but often, like Mrs. March, have disabilities and are in the position of feeling they are a burden to their loved ones or to society.
"Assisted suicide man walks free" (BBC News)