Mother who aided the suicide of her son is freed

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The Independent Online

A mother of five who held her terminally ill son as he committed suicide on his 42nd birthday was allowed to walk free from court yesterday.

A mother of five who held her terminally ill son as he committed suicide on his 42nd birthday was allowed to walk free from court yesterday.

Heather Pratten, 63, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of her son, Nigel Goodman, was given a conditional discharge for a year by a judge at the Old Bailey.

Mrs Pratten left the court in tears as Judge Graham Boal warned that others would not be treated so leniently.

"Let no-one who hears of this case misinterpret my decision," he said. "Taking the unusual course I have in a very unusual case should not be regarded by anyone as a precedent."

Mr Goodman suffered from Huntington's disease, a hereditary illness, from which Mrs Pratten had also nursed her husband and another son.

"I believe that you too, in a wholly different way, have suffered enough," the judge said.

During the trial the court heard that Mrs Pratten's husband had been in hospital for 10 years with the disease, which causes physical and psychological symptoms, before he died. Another son, Philip, had also developed it, albeit in a more manageable form, and was currently being cared for in a special institution.

But when Nigel, a gifted artist and independent free spirit, showed symptoms four years ago, he took it very badly said Antony Chinn, defending.

On his 42nd birthday, on 31 March this year, Mrs Pratten met her son at the hospital. They went to his flat where he unwrapped some heroin and begged her not to let him leave the flat alive, the court heard.

She delayed calling an ambulance because she feared her son would be resuscitated.

A note found in the flat apparently signed by Mr Goodman, said: "I am suffering and I want to die."

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