Mother admits to euthanising terminally ill son in 1981 to end suffering, calls for legal change

A mother has confessed to administering a fatal dose of morphine to her terminally ill seven-year-old son to alleviate his suffering and “quietly end his life”, as reported by The BBC.

Antonya Cooper, from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, revealed her story to BBC Radio Oxford in a bid to advocate for a change in assisted dying laws. Her son, Hamish, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer predominantly affecting children, at the age of five. Initially given a prognosis of three months, Hamish endured 16 months of treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital, extending his life but leaving him in significant pain.

Cooper recounted her son’s final night in 1981, explaining that when Hamish expressed severe pain and agreed to her offer to relieve it, she administered a large dose of morphine through his Hickman Catheter, ending his life peacefully.

BBC Radio Oxford questioned the 77-year-old on whether Hamish understood her intentions. Cooper expressed a strong belief that he did, acknowledging the gravity of her actions but emphasising her commitment to ending his suffering. She said:

“It was the right thing to do. My son was facing horrendous suffering and intense pain; I was not going to allow him to go through that.”

When asked about the legal implications of her admission, Cooper acknowledged the possibility of being charged with manslaughter or murder but noted the urgency due to her own terminal diagnosis. She stated:

“If they come 43 years after I have allowed Hamish to die peacefully, then I would have to face the consequences. But they would have to be quick because I’m dying too.”

Now suffering with her own incurable cancer, Cooper’s experiences have solidified her stance on assisted deaths. “We don’t do it to our pets. Why should we do it to humans?” she questioned, supporting the “right to die” movement, which advocates for individuals to choose the timing and manner of their death to avoid suffering.

Critics of legalising assisted dying argue it could pressure vulnerable individuals into ending their lives to avoid being a financial or emotional burden. In response to Cooper’s revelation, Thames Valley Police stated they were investigating the case, stressing that it was early in the inquiry and further comments would be reserved.

While assisted dying and assisted suicide remain illegal in the UK, regions like Scotland, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are considering legal reforms to permit terminally ill individuals to end their lives. Over the past 15 years, 190 cases have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, resulting in four successful prosecutions.

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