Humanists UK have today called for an assisted dying law following the tragic case of a failed suicide pact between a man and his terminally ill wife.
Graham Mansfield, 73, killed Dyanne, his wife of 40 years who was suffering from terminal lung cancer, in what was described in court as ‘an act of love’, before attempting to kill himself.
Following a murder trial at Manchester Crown Court, Mr Mansfield was convicted of manslaughter. He was given a two year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
During the trial, the court heard how, when police spoke to the couple’s family, friends, and neighbours after his arrest, they mentioned his ‘devotion’ to his wife.
While interviewed in custody, Mr Mansfield told police that Dyanne had said ‘when it gets too bad, don’t leave me to go into hospital. Please do something about it, kill me,’ and that they had both agreed to a pact. He told the court that he had agreed to end her life before taking his own but that things had ‘all gone wrong’.
Passing a sentence of two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, Mr Justice Goose noted that Mr Mansfield had been ‘under immense emotional pressure,’ and that he was ‘entirely satisfied’ that Mr Mansfield had ‘acted out of love for your wife’.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS Help for suicidal thoughts webpages. Support is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, and whatever life has done to them.
Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:
‘Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of Graham and Dyanne Mansfield. We are sad that Graham felt he had to take the desperate actions that he did after Dyanne’s terminal cancer diagnosis. If Dyanne had made a clear choice in such circumstances to end her life, she should have had that option.
‘In May, coroner David Ridley warned of an increase in suicide pacts due to the absence of an assisted dying law and this incident serves as tragic, painful evidence of this trend.
‘In the absence of an assisted dying law, the CPS guidance for suicide pacts and so-called “mercy killings” should be brought in line with its guidance for assisting a suicide. We do not believe that it is in the public interest to prosecute those involved in these cases.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read the ONS study on suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.