Son admits giving drug to let cancer mother die

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The Independent Online
Greater Manchester Police are investigating the death of an 80- year-old woman after a man said he gave his cancer-stricken mother a morphine overdose in a mercy killing.

Detectives have been called in by a coroner over the death in hospital of Alice Rowbottom after her son, Derek admitted administering two huge doses of the drug. Mr Rowbottom, 44, told PA News: "I was trying to put her out of her pain."

The father-of-two from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said that he had been unable to bear watching his widowed mother die slowly from liver cancer at North Manchester General Hospital. He told nursing staff what he had done after her death.

Mrs Rowbottom died on Wednesday after spending more than six weeks in hospital, unable to eat, drink or move without crying out in pain. Her son said he had pleaded with nursing staff to leave his mother alone. Mr Rowbottom, who was devoted to his mother, said he sat by her bedside every day. "One day I noticed there was a booster button on her diamorphine pump and I just pressed it until the syringe was empty. Then I said to one of the nurses: 'There's something wrong with this pump,' and they gave her another one and I did the same again."

A nurse spotted Mr Rowbottom administering the second dose and hospital security was called in. Mrs Rowbottom's morphine pump was replaced with a tamper-proof patch so that her son could administer no more drugs.

The hospital called in the coroner when she died. Mr Rowbottom said: "At least I know she was in no more pain. I loved my mother and I couldn't leave her like that. She wouldn't have left me."

He was angry that doctors, who he said seemed unable to treat his mother, were unwilling to let her rest in peace. "They didn't even seem to know what was wrong with her. She was admitted with gall stones and I only heard yesterday she was supposed to have had cancer," he claimed.

He said detectives from Greater Manchester CID had visited him at home and told him that there would be an inquest and an investigation, He added: "I don't regret what I did. She was in so much pain I just did the best I could for her."

Mr Rowbottom said his two grown-up sons and his wife fully supported his decision. He now hopes the inevitable publicity surrounding his case will help force a change in the law to end the suffering of those who wish to die. "If the law prevents you from helping someone that you dearly love rest in peace it just wants changing."

A spokesman for North Manchester Hospital Healthcare Trust said it was concerned at the allegations and would be setting up an internal inquiry.

Mr Rowbottom's disclosure came a day after Scotland's leading law officer, the Lord Advocate, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, said in Edingburgh that doctors in Scotland who stop treating coma patients officially regarded as incapable of recovery will not face criminal prosecution for murder or culpable homicide.