Shropshire mother calls for debate on assisted suicides

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

The mother of a severely disabled Shropshire man today called for a more open debate on the issue of assisted suicide following the controversial Coronation Street suicide storyline.

James Shepherd

Lissie Shepherd said the debate surrounding the right to die which followed the death of Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper, had left her "angry and afraid".

She was so concerned she wrote to ITV producers asking them to introduce more balance in the way the issue was presented.

Ms Shepherd believes televised debates presented euthanasia as "the only option without the possibility of an otherwise happy alternative".

The mother of five had to face her own stark choices 32 years ago when her then eight-year-old son James was left severely disabled after being hit by a car while he was out with his father.

James was placed on life support but after two weeks, doctors told the family they would have to switch the machine off to see if he would come round.

When he did come round, Ms Shepherd was warned James would probably never become alert enough to recognise her and would never speak again.

But 13 months after the accident James said his first words and now, at the age of 40, lives with his mother in Bomere Heath, near Shrewsbury.

Ms Shepherd said that had the law been different it could have had an awful impact on her son's future.


She said: "If I wasn't here and the decision was made for James there would have to be a panel. If you just list James's condition, who could believe that he could be happy?

They could make the assessment without ever meeting him and that terrifies me."

Julie Hesmondhalgh, 43, who played Hayley, said she supported the right to die, but added: !I have to add the caveat that it has to be properly done. You have to make sure that people don't go round killing elderly people, say, just for the inheritance."

Ms Shepherd today insisted that the law does not need to be changed. She said: "I believe in people making decisions for themselves and drawing the line for themselves. I don't believe the law needs to be changed for that.

"People's ignorance terrifies me. Unless you have had an opportunity to learn things on the coalface, you don't know what you are talking about. I'm afraid the people making the laws don't work on the coalface."

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