It is natural but futile to examine the face of Frances Inglis for signs of the torment that led her to give her severely disabled son a fatal injection of heroin. Her blank, straightforward gaze and compressed lips tell us nothing. They are the features of a resigned, slightly careworn 57-year-old woman who has been asked to pose for an official photograph, knowing the camera will not be kind.
And yet this is the face of a convicted murderer. She twice tried to put her 22-year-old son, Tom, beyond suffering. Her first attempt to kill him failed. On bail for his attempted murder and banned from seeing him, she entered his nursing home in Hertfordshire by posing as his aunt.
Armed with a stolen syringe and ￡200 worth of heroin, she barricaded herself in his room with an oxygen cylinder and a wheelchair and poured strong glue into the lock to buy herself time.
"I took the syringe and injected him and held him and told him everything would be fine," she softly told an Old Bailey jury. She gave the lethal injection "with love in her heart" and from a conviction that he was being tortured by constant pain. She believed she was performing an "act of mercy", but she also admitted knowing that what she did was against the law.
The wave of public revulsion at Frances Inglis's life sentence, of which she must serve at least nine years, reflects an instinctive understanding of the fierceness of that bond. She believed the alternative was crueller: watching him die slowly of hunger and thirst as his life-support mechanism was switched off - assuming that this had been allowed by the high court.
But there are troubling elements to this tragedy that puts it in a different category from assisted suicide. Tom did not have a terminal illness.
It was his mother, desperate and at times hysterical with grief, who interpreted his state and believed she was acting in his best interests.
When Mrs Inglis, who was doing a nursing diploma, was assured that her brain-damaged son was not in pain, she asked: "How do they know?" She is alleged to have refused to believe an encouraging prognosis from one of the doctors at Queen's Hospital, Romford, and to have seen only "horror, pain and tragedy" in his condition.
Equally, we might ask, how did she know? Was there absolutely no hope for his recovery? By what extension of a mother's intuition could she measure her comatose son's "living hell"? Yet so certain was she of his agony that only 10 days after Tom was injured by falling from an ambulance, in 2007, she turned to a neighbour to ask for help in finding heroin to kill him.
Significantly, all her close family have supported Mrs Inglis. More than that, they have called her courageous. "All of those who loved and were close to Tom," said his brother, Alex, "have never seen this as murder." The jury, however, was forced to do so.
She was convicted of murder, for which the mandatory sentence is life. In her case, nine years in prison. Against the usual tariff, which starts at 15 years for murder, Judge Brian Barker's minimum of nine years may reflect a degree of temperance but it does not reflect mercy.
她并非邪恶之人，没有危害社会。维护法规的Barker法官断然表示：“不管你有天大的理由，你也不能无视法律夺走他人的生命。”他理解她的“苦衷”，但更有力地称她的犯罪行为是“蓄意的”。在杀人凶手面前，法律没有宽大仁慈的一面，法官亦然。伦敦Common Serjeant法院的 Barker法官决定保守宣判此案。
She has not been proved evil and she is not a danger to society. Judge Barker, upholding statute, put it flatly: "You cannot take the law into your own hands and you cannot take away life, however compelling you think the reason." He acknowledged her "unhappiness" but more forcefully described her "calculated and consistent course of criminal conduct". The law relating to murder may have no room for leniency, but judges do. Judge Barker, the Common Serjeant of London, decided to exercise it sparingly.
Mrs Inglis's sentence cannot, should not, have been about protecting the terminally ill from well-intentioned relatives or "sending messages" to the public that they are not empowered to end a loved one's agonising life. But in the present muddle and controversy over the law on assisted dying, it is not surprising that this is how it was read.
英国慈善组织“死的尊严”认为，考虑到她慈悲的动机，她不应被判为凶手。“我们当然不能宽恕她触犯法律。” “死的尊严”负责人Sarah Wootton说：“尽管我们知道她此举是出于爱与怜悯。我们只是希望政府能重新关注法律委员会2006年的报告。报告中提出我们有必要复审一下这些案件是如何审判的，是不是该对'安乐死'进行详细答辩。”
The organisation Dignity in Dying believes it is "inappropriate" for Mrs Inglis to be tried for murder, given her compassionate motivation. "We absolutely don't condone breaking the law," said Sarah Wootton, chief executive, "despite it being clear that Mrs Inglis was motivated by love and compassion. We are calling for the Government to revisit the Law Commission's 2006 report which found that a review was necessary into the way these cases are tried and whether there should be a specific defence of 'mercy killing'."
英国《每日电讯报》宗教栏目编辑George Pitcher指出，在这一点上我们需要格外谨慎。安乐死的概念可能引发一场噩梦--“有些人的生命将注定低于其他人；健康的人将决定那些有缺陷或处于疾病末期的人的寿命；而‘亲人’一旦身体不便，成了家人的负担便很可能被不怀好意的亲属们吞噬。” 更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
As George Pitcher, The Daily Telegraph's religion editor, points out, we need to be cautious. The concept of mercy killing, he argues, could introduce a nightmare world "in which some lives are deemed inferior to others, in which the able-bodied determine the lifespan of the disabled and terminally ill… and in which 'loved ones' potentially can be despatched by wicked relatives when they become inconvenient and burdensome."
nursing home 私人疗养院
oxygen cylinder 氧气瓶；储氧筒
terminal illness 不治之症
mercy killing 安乐死