A large number of British papers have just featured the news that Michael Bateman who helped his wife die by putting a bag over his wife’s head as she ended her life with helium, will not be prosecuted. This is a more direct interpretation of the DPP’s Guidelines indicating that a person will not be prosecuted for assisting when they are motivated purely by compassion. Previously the CPS’s ruling has been seen to cover cases where someone ‘assisted’ by facilitating someone’s journey to Switzerland and the Dignitas clinic. While both acts can fall under the law against assisted suicide (England & Wales), most people would see a clear difference in the degree of involvement. Nevertheless, the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) has ruled that although there is sufficient evidence in both cases, it is not in the public interest to prosecute.
Mr Bateman, of Monk Ings, Birstall, “freely admitted assisting” his 62-year-old wife Margaret Bateman in relation to her death in October 2009, the CPS said. However, Bryan Boulter, reviewing lawyer for the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “I concluded that a prosecution would not be in the public interest because Mrs Bateman, who had suffered from chronic pain for decades, had a clear and settled wish to commit suicide. Interviews with Mr Bateman and the couple’s sons supported this. . . . It was also clear that Mr Bateman was wholly motivated by compassion. He cared deeply for his wife and had taken care of her daily needs for several years. There was no evidence to suggest any motive other than compassion.
“Mr Bateman co-operated fully with the investigation into the suicide and freely admitted assisting Mrs Bateman. As such, there was sufficient evidence to charge the offence of aiding or abetting a suicide, but it would not have been in the public interest to do so in the particular circumstances of this case.”
Although Mr Bateman helped with the bag, his wife then turned the tap on the gas cylinder herself. Mrs Bateman died at the family home after inhaling helium which caused death by oxygen starvation.