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England: Widow found not guilty of murder after she gave her husband a terminal dose of medicine

An 80-year-old woman who gave her terminally ill husband a fatal dose of medicine so he could end his life has been cleared of murder, triggering calls for a change in the law on assisted dying.
Mavis Eccleston and her 81-year-old husband, Dennis, formed a pact to end their lives together, Stafford crown court heard. She said she gave him the medicine, which he took himself, kissed him and pulled a cover over him. He kissed her hand and said “Good night darling” as the lady, who had also taken the medicine, went to lie down on a sofa. They were found at their home in Huntington, near Cannock, Staffordshire, in February last year and were taken to hospital where the lady, who survived, was given an antidote.

The couple had been married for 60 years. Dennis was suffering from advanced bowel cancer and had talked of ending his life. In the final hours of Dennis’s life, hospital staff pulled their beds together. They held hands as he died. The couple wrote a note to their children explaining their decision.

The prosecution had claimed that Mavis Eccleston told hospital staff her husband did not know the medicine would end his life, a claim she denied. The jury took four hours to return not guilty verdicts on charges of murder and manslaughter.