A 53-year-old man, who threw his mother off of a balcony to her death because she was suffering from Alzheimers disease was cleared of murder by a judge who said he “acted out of love” – a decision that is raising troubling new ethical questions.
The UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is reporting on the case of Robert Knight, described as a “devoted son,” who killed his 79-year-old mother, June Knight, at the end-of-life care center where she was living.
During a visit, Robert carried his mother through a fire door and threw her off a balcony, sending her tumbling 13 feet to the ground below. June suffered “catastrophic” brain injuries and died at the scene.
At the trial, Robert told authorities he didn’t want to see his mother in pain after she came down with a “winter virus.”
As a result, a jury found that he suffered from a “loss of control” when killing his mother and sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for two years.
Sentencing Knight, Judge Samantha Leigh said: “You are someone who acted out of love and desperation.” Judge Leigh described the situation as a “very sad case” and an act of “mercy killing.”
Antonia Tully who leads SPUC’s campaign against euthanasia and assisted suicide, Lives Worth Living, said: “This is a tragic case which raises a number of questions. What care and support was given to Robert Knight to help him accept and cherish his mother in her last days? Was Mr Knight helped to understand his mother’s distressing condition? Why was he so desperate that, days before her natural death, he decided to kill her?
“Caring for people with dementia can be extremely challenging and demands a lot from both carers and families. It is completely wrong to suggest that killing someone with dementia is a loving act. That sends a message that there’s no point in bothering about people with dementia.”
As SPUC reports, there is a worrying trend toward killing people with dementia. For example, in 2016, 116 people with dementia were killed in the Netherlands where assisted suicide is legal. This represents a 1000% increase in the number of dementia patients who were euthanized by their doctor since the country legalized assisted suicide in 2001.
Just this month, a Dutch doctor was acquitted of murdering a dementia patient who had to be held down by her family while he administered the lethal injection. The 80-year-old woman had progressed beyond what her husband could care for at home and was put into a home where she was frightened and distressed. Her doctor determined that she was enduring unbearable suffering and relied upon a statement she had made earlier in her will about wanting to be euthanized “when I myself find it the right time” as justification for killing her. When she tried to get up during the procedure, family had to hold her down.
Even though a court found that consent wasn’t established in the case, and that the implementation of the euthanasia was traumatic, the doctor was eventually cleared.
There are growing fears in the pro-life community that this ruling expanded Dutch euthanasia law and will pave the way for allowing people with dementia to be killed even without explicit consent.
This is not compassionate care, nor does it do anything to further our understanding of dementia so that we might one day either cure it or make those suffering with the disease more comfortable.
Instead of killing these patience, “we should all take the time and trouble to understand dementia better and to offer help and hope where we can,” Tully said. “Above all we need to keep reminding society that people with dementia are still fully human and that they should be protected by the law.”
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