British Policeman Will Not Serve Jail Time for Euthanasia Death of Wife

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 14, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Policeman Will Not Serve Jail Time for Euthanasia Death of Wife Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 14, 2005

London, England( — A retired British policeman will not serve jail time in the euthanasia death of his wife. Brian Blackburn admitted killing his terminally ill wife Margaret as part of a suicide pact that he survived.

The case has promoted advocates of assisted suicide to say a change in British law preventing the grisly practices is needed. But, pro-life groups say the law is fine and that the case sends out an alarming message about the need for better care for elderly and disabled patients.

Judge Richard Hawkins, in deciding against jail time for Blackburn, said he had acted like a loving husband when he took his wife’s life. Although the death was a "serious matter," the case’s "exceptional circumstances" allowed Judge Hawkins to deny a prison sentence, according to a BBC report.

ProLife Alliance director Julia Millington was disappointed by the ruling and said the law against killing another person was clear and should not be "applied selectively in response to individual cases."

"His sentence [Blackburn’s] in no way reflects the gravity of the crime that he has committed," she told the BBC. "Instead it sends out a very clear and, indeed, very alarming message that will in no way deter other people from imitating him."

Blackburn, 62, spent three months in prison awaiting trial following his cutting of his wife’s wrists in October. He tried to kill himself but the suicide attempt failed.

Judge Hawkins cited cutting his wife’s wrists "as the last loving thing you could do for her."

Pleading guilty of manslaughter, Blackburn walked out of court with only a suspended two year sentence.

"I did what she asked me to do. I failed myself. Now I have to pay the price," Blackburn allegedly told police after he was apprehended, the BBC report indicated.

Margaret Blackburn had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, the BBC reported. However, she did not seek medical treatment for her condition.

A representative of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society says the incident shows the need for a bill to allow doctors to assist suicides.