Doctor 'enabled woman to die with dignity'
Summing up the case for the defence, Sydney Kentridge QC, told Winchester Crown Court that the primary intention of Nigel Cox when he administered a fatal dose of potassium chloride to Lillian Boyes was to relieve her suffering and not to kill her.
Dr Cox, 47, a consultant rheumatologist at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, denies the charge. Mrs Boyes, 70, who had acute rheumatoid arthritis when she was given the injection in August last year, had asked him to help her die.
Mr Kentridge said that the case rested on a 'razor's edge', a very fine distinction between actions which a doctor could or could not legally take.
Without the injection, he said, Mrs Boyes, who was close to death, would have died in a 'dreadful, gasping, painful' state. Instead, Dr Cox had alleviated her pain for a short time which, although it lasted only minutes, was 'as valuable and important as hours or days'.
'She was allowed to come to a peaceful, calm and dignified end in the presence of her sons,' he said. 'That is Dr Cox's alleged crime.'
Mr Kentridge said that, during 13 years of caring for Mrs Boyes, the defendant's main concern had been to relieve her suffering and expert witnesses had testified that the final injection achieved that purpose.
The case was not about euthanasia or medical ethics, he said. It was about one patient and one doctor - 'an understanding and selfless physician whose whole career had been devoted to the saving of life and the relief of pain' - driven to unorthodox action.
Neil Butterfield QC, summing up for the prosecution, told the jury that they were trying 'a desperately sad and distressing case' but that they must set aside their emotions and prejudices.
He said that while Dr Cox's motives in administering the potassium chloride had been 'honourable and decent', they were irrelevant. The only issue was whether his primary intention had been to end Mrs Boyes' life and all the evidence pointed to that conclusion.
Mr Butterfield said that there had been a close bond between Dr Cox and Mrs Boyes but that he had broken his promise that she would not suffer and was under great pressure to hasten her death.
'Moved by compassion, he prepared in these most harrowing circumstances to break the ethics of his profession and the law.'
He said that killing patients to end their suffering was unacceptable both to the law and the medical profession. 'Doctors don't want it because of the appalling dilemmas it would put them in and the pressures they would experience from relatives.'
Witnesses had testified that it had been Dr Cox's duty to ensure that Mrs Boyes died with dignity and minimimal suffering. 'That was the extent of his duty; thus far and no further.'
Mr Butterfield said there was sometimes an exaggerated view of the skill and expertise of the medical profession. 'Medicine does fail sometimes, with tragic results to those involved.'
A verdict is expected today.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...