By Neil Tweedie
Kay Gilderdale is beginning the rest of her life. For the first time in 18 years she has experienced something like relief, the shadow cast by her daughter’s tormented life, and the traumatic manner of its end, lifted at last.
It could have been so different. Mrs Gilderdale, 55, might have been beginning a sentence for attempted murder on Monday, the latest example of Britain’s confused policy on assisted suicide. Last week, Frances Inglis was jailed for nine years for administering a lethal dose of heroin to her brain-damaged son in a not-wholly-dissimilar example of mercy killing. Yet, a few days later, Mrs Gilderdale walked free from Lewes Crown Court, despite admitting that she had helped her daughter, Lynn, to die.
What saved her was a jury, which accepted that she had acted in what she imagined to be the best interests of her daughter. Acquitted of attempted murder, Mrs Gilderdale was given a conditional discharge for the offence of assisting a suicide. The judge queried the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed with the more serious charge, and there the issue of assisted suicide rests for the time being, in a haze of doubt and inconsistency.
Lynn Gilderdale was 31 when she tried to kill herself in December 2008. It was her second attempt, her first being in 2007, when she took an overdose of morphine.
For 17 years she had endured a twilight life, confined to bed at home, shielded by curtains from the natural light she was unable to bear. Lynn suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, better known as ME, a condition greeted with scepticism in some quarters for the absence of a clear physiological cause, but which produced the most disastrous symptoms in her.
Unable to move or speak, fed through a tube inserted into her nose, and sustained by a cocktail of drugs, she eventually decided enough was enough.