The differences between the Inglis and Gilderdale murder cases

Earlier this week, a mother named Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of the attempted murder of her daughter Lynn in December 2008. Lynn Gilderdale had been bed-bound since the age of 14 with severe ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). She was paraplegic (earlier on in her illness, she had been functionally quadriplegic, but she remained without feeling or movement in her legs) and unable to speak or swallow. The Daily Mail printed an interview with her mother in today’s edition. (More: Sarah Ismail @ Pickled Politics.)

Some people have compared this case to the murder case involving Frances Inglis, who murdered her brain-damaged son with a heroin overdose in November 2008. She was found guilty last week and received a life sentence, minimum nine years (that is the minimum that can be passed for murder). Why did two mothers who killed (or may have killed) their chronically sick adult children get such substantially different outcomes: one a life sentence, the other a conditional discharge for assisting a suicide?

Well, the differences are not subtle. Kay Gilderdale had cared for her daughter round the clock for seventeen years. Frances Inglis’s son had always been cared for in hospitals and had been ill for only a couple of yeras. But most importantly, Lynn Gilderdale had decided for herself that she wanted to die, and had disclosed this in her online diary (most likely on LiveJournal, where she went under the pseudonym Jessie Oliver and the handle _chaotictears_); the Mail printed an extract from that on Tuesday. Her parents had both tried to dissuade her from taking her own life.

Frances Inglis seems to have decided as soon as she learned that her son had suffered a brain injury that he was as good as dead. Without being able to ask him his wishes, she attempted to overdose him. When she failed the first time and was banned from seeing him, she went to great lengths to ensure that there was a second time, and that she killed him, more than a year later. That is not assisting a suicide. That is a twisted version of a mercy killing. It is premeditated murder.

By the way, although I made my views on assisted suicide and euthanasia clear here in the past, in the case of Kay and Lynn Gilderdale, I feel too sad to be able to condemn anyone. I didn’t know her, but I realised that I’d seen her on a documentary about ME in the 1990s (you can see a five-minute clip from it, featuring Lynn with Dr Anne Macintyre, who was recovering from it at the time, in this YouTube video; the last third of it is in this one which also features Lynn as well as a young male patient who was forced into a psychiatric unit). Back then, doctors were forcing some young ME patients into psychiatric hospitals because they refused to believe that it was a real condition rather than a psychological one, and this kind of behaviour continued into the last decade and may have led to the death of one sufferer, Sophia Mirza, whose post-mortem showed abnormalities in her spinal cord. It is rather astonishing that some doctors see someone paralysed and obviously in pain, unable to tolerate light or sound, and think that this is a mental rather than a physical illness.

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  • Salaam Alaikum,

    Computer ate previous comment, so I’ll be brief and say that I agree with the premise of your post, the two cases are very different.

    M.E is not linked to CFS though, as sufferers are keen to point out.

    I’m really enjoying your foray into disability issues. .-= Safiya Outlines´s last blog ..Back From the S.A.R =-.

  • Thersites

    Both M.E. and C.F.S. are diagnosed from patients’ behaviour rather than the presenceof pathogens. Which is diagnosed- or whether another term is used- probably depends on the diagnosers’ medical and cultural backgrounds and attitudes. Psychological conditions are every bit as real and physical as other medical conditions. In Mrs. Inglis’s case the fact that his doctors thought her son had a good chance of recovery or improvement probably affected the jury’s attitude. As I said elsewhere, it is usually the families and friends of disabled people who see often illusory reasons for hope, while professional carers are realistic and pessimistic. Perhaps Mrs Inglis’s experiences working with profoundly disabled people affected her expectations for the worse.

  • Salaams Yusuf:

    I have a friend with CFS and she had a heck of a time getting a diagnosis, and getting anyone to validate her symptoms. Even her insurance company didn’t want to pay for meds :( .-= Safiyyah´s last blog ..Chronic Pain, Suicide, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Family-Assisted Suicide … =-.

  • Thanks for your comments on my Dreamwidth blog. I was a close friend of Lynne’s and had actually read the post that you referenced - about wanting to die - at the time she originally posted it. So I have been following the case as closely as I can cope with doing. I feel so very very sorry for Kaye, for everything she went through - looking after Lynne, what must have been a hellish decision to help Lynne die, and then this year of trauma after losing her child. Kaye’s still suffering and that suffering won’t ever end - although at least hopefully now she’ll have some small measure of closure as the threat of being jailled has been removed.

    The things that happened to Lynne are beyond horriffic, some of them I knew about and others I wasn’t aware of until they were revealed in court. I am bedridden with whatever it is that’s wrong with me (I’ve had a diagnosis of CFS/ME for most of the time I’ve been sick, but there are other possibilities that have been raised and not ruled out) but I’m not nearly as sick as Lynne was and I hope dearly that I never am. And yes, if I was ever in Lynne’s situation then I hope my own family would assist me as hers helped her, and I hope like hell that they wouldn’t get punished.

    The whole issue of assisted suicide, especially for those like Lynne whose physical disabilities make them incapable of commiting suicide without assistance, is very complicated and I don’t know that in an imperfect world it can be anything but complicated. I wish it were different.

    r .-= Ricky Buchanan´s last blog ..Using A Desktop Computer In Bed =-.

  • PS, if you installed the “subscribe to comments” plugin it would be much easier for users to see any replies you make! .-= Ricky Buchanan´s last blog ..Holidays Without Travelling =-.