Could this be a Precursor to Euthanasia?

Jodi - posted on 04/27/2011 ( 11 moms have responded )




A man who suffocated his chronically ill partner with a plastic bag has avoided jail, with a judge saying the offender was motivated only by love and compassion.

David Scott Mathers, 66, on Thursday said he wished he didn't have to kill his partner of more than two decades, Eva Griffith, who had been suffering from a degenerative spine condition.

In handing him a two-year suspended sentence, NSW Supreme Court Justice Peter Hall said the couple had been devoted and happy, and Mathers was faced with an "agonising conflict" when Ms Griffith became desperate to end her life.

Outside court, Mathers said he was unable to express how much he loved his partner of 22 years.

"What I can say in a short grab wouldn't do it justice," he told reporters.

"It's been an ordeal, I'm glad it's over."

Euthanasia advocacy group Exit International welcomed the judge's decision, but said Mathers, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, should never have had to face court.

"This can only happen when we see changes to existing legislation that outlaws all cases of assisted suicide," Exit director Philip Nitschke said.

Ms Griffith, 78, was diagnosed with osteoporosis, arthritis and sciatica but had been taken off her medication because it was "not doing her any good", Mathers had said.

In the weeks before her death she was twice admitted to hospital and one night she became so ill she couldn't move and was crying out in pain.

Mathers told police Ms Griffith had wanted to commit suicide to escape her suffering and the prospect of life in a nursing home, which she considered "her worst nightmare".

In July 2009 she tried to overdose on anti-depressants at her Ashfield unit in Sydney's west, and when she was still alive two days later, after even more pills, he "finished what she'd started".

"I suffocated her," he said in his police interview, adding that she had struggled when he tried at first to smother her with a pillow.

"She seemed to be getting air from somewhere. I tried it with a towel and putting pressure on the airways, the mouth and nostrils, and then I used a plastic bag.

Justice Hall said Mathers at the time was suffering a depressive illness which led to an abnormality of mind, affecting his ability to judge right from wrong.

But he said the fact that Ms Griffith was in a "cognitively sound state of mind" when she decided to end her life was an important factor.

"This was not a case of one person making a decision for another," the judge said.

"Ms Griffith made known to Mr Mathers her wishes, he being the person that she loved more than anyone else. That presented the offender with an agonising conflict."

Justice Hall said Mathers' only motivation "was a selfless act born out of the love the offender held for her".

He also took into account his disclosure and admissions to police, saying he deserved to be commended because without it, authorities may have never known the full circumstances.

The judge said a sentence of imprisonment was appropriate, but it should be suspended, and also placed Mathers on a two-year good behaviour bond.

He backdated the term to April 8, 2011, to account for 20 days Mathers spent in custody.

So what do you think? Do you think that such a judgement, which will now be able to be used as precedent in future mercy-killing cases, is a move towards setting the scene for legalisation (or at least decriminilisation) of euthanasia? Isn't this a waste of the court's time if they are only going to issue very light sentences in such cases anyway?


Krista - posted on 04/28/2011




I think it is a step in the right direction, but as others mentioned, we should be moving towards medically assisted suicide, and not just lenient sentences when a loved one helps someone to die.

I'm very supportive of euthanasia after watching what my 47 year old father went through when he died of ALS a year and a half ago. He had lost virtually all muscle control and needed to be cared for 24/7. He also lost his speech and he became very depressed and understandably miserable. Most of the care taking was left to my mom, and after a less than perfect marriage she resented having to care for him. He died 3 days before Christmas when he was no longer able to breathe, and my entire family was there to see him take his last breath. It was the worst thing that I'd ever experienced. Right til the end, he had held out hope that there would be a cure or a treatment that would extend his life, but we knew better.

After seeing what he went through and what my mom was put through, I want the right to be able to end my life if I am ever in that situation. I don't think it's fair that we put our pets down to save them from suffering near the end of their lives - that's considered humane - but we make other humans suffer incredible diseases with no way to escape. It doesn't make sense to me.

Amber - posted on 04/28/2011




I love that Oregon (US) already has physician assisted death. They call it "Death with Dignity". It is a full process that they have to go through, but once through the process terminally ill people will be assisted in their death by a physician. I don't live there, but I hope that it spreads acceptance to the rest of our country eventually.

I feel so sorry for this man. It's sad to see that a woman he loved had no option but to end her life this way, or that he had to be the one to help her. Truly sad.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 04/28/2011




Wow. This is a hard one. In one hand, for the terminally ill, and for those ready and wanting to die....I think it is acceptable. But murders can be covered up as assisted sucide, and people would literally get away with murder.

Taking someones life is such a serious matter......I am gonna have to really think about this.

Tara - posted on 04/28/2011




I think this is a step in the right direction. What is so unfortunate about this case is the fact that he had to try several times to smother her, and that she had to attempt it with overdose first. The fact he had to actually smother her and watch rather than a medically assisted suicide is so sad. Had there been an avenue for her to go that would have provided a medically induced death that was peaceful for both of them, i'm sure they would have gone that route.
perhaps in the years to come the world will change their attitude about death and ones ability to own that part of their existence as they have owned every other part.


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Esther - posted on 04/28/2011




I think it's heartbreaking that this man felt that this was the only choice he had. What a horrible thing to have to do and what a horrible way for his wife to go. She should have access to medically assisted euthanasia. Holland has had officially legalized euthanasia since 2002 and it was accepted practice (although not officially regulated) for about 20 years before that. It hasn't opened the door to people just randomly killing people. It tends to be pretty clear when it's euthanasia and when it's murder, especially when well regulated. I certainly hope this IS a precursor to legalized euthanasia in the US too. I would also imagine that it would lower the increasing health care cost burden on the country if people weren't forced to continue treatments that aren't going to help them anyway.

Constance - posted on 04/28/2011




I do 100% support euthanasia. I think when some one is in that much pain they have the right to decide if they want to continue or want to let go. But on the other hand if it is a loved one that has helped we have no choice but to throughly investigate such a claim. Because if we just take someone on their word that this is what they wanted then we will have murderers walking around making the claim I did it out of love. There are too many laws that are abused that were created to protect someone from a crime.
Two for example:
1. Battered women who kill their abusive spouse because it is their only way out. I support this law because women who are abused to that extreme have no escape and our laws do not protect them enough before they are faced with a decision to kill them so they can live.
2. Women who had sex with someone while under the influence of a substance. I do and don't agree with this law. I agree because sometimes you are completely to out of it to make a decision. The reason I don't is because it has opened the door for a women to have a one night and regret it so she cries rape. I don't consider it rape if you do know what you are doing and you consent to the act.

Ally - posted on 04/28/2011




Def think it is a step in the right direction...some of the suffering we put terminally ill people through without another option is just cruel.

Yet prisoners who muder and rape people and commit other horrible and viscious crimes are barred from any kind of mistreatment, cruel or unusual punishment and if they get a death sentence get to leave this life basically asleep and pain free....where is the justice in that.?

We have more compassion for our animals and prisoners than we do our ailing members of society left to suffer in unimaginable ways. I hope assisted suicide is finally legal when i'm ready to go many many years fromnow ...or that my hubby loves me enough to put me out of my misery :)

Jackie - posted on 04/28/2011




I fully support euthanasia but I think it should be done by a medical professional after it's agreed upon by the person him/herself. It should be done in a professional setting so that if there are any complications, there will be minimal suffering. If we just let loved ones kill us then murder can be easily covered up. It's their life and they should be able to make that kind of decision.

JuLeah - posted on 04/28/2011




I am glad he got off. We need to re think how we view death. If a person wishes to end their life here, that is their right. If they need help, help ought to be given

Caitlin - posted on 04/28/2011




I 100% support euthanasia, so I think this was fine, and I hope it ushers in a change in the way we see these situations and there shoudl be a system in place to allow the loved ones to NOT have to outright kill their partners/parents or whatever if they are suffering because the law would not help them end their lives in a dignified manner..

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