Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Mother Who Admitted to Euthanizing Terminally Ill Son in 1981 Dies at 77

ABINGDON, OXFORDSHIRE – Antonya Cooper, a mother who recently admitted to giving her terminally ill son a fatal dose of morphine in 1981, has died at the age of 77. Her family announced her passing over the weekend following a diagnosis of incurable breast, pancreatic, and liver cancer.

Cooper’s admission regarding her seven-year-old son, Hamish, was part of her efforts to advocate for changes to the law on assisted dying in the UK, where such actions are currently illegal. Police have confirmed that an investigation into the case is ongoing.

Hamish was suffering from stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer primarily affecting children. After 16 months of painful treatment, Cooper administered a large dose of morphine through his Hickman Catheter, ending his life.

In a statement, Cooper’s daughter, Tabitha, said, “She was peaceful, pain-free, at home and surrounded by her loving family. It was exactly the way she wanted it. She lived life on her terms and she died on her terms.”

Following the BBC News report on Hamish’s death, officers from Thames Valley Police visited the family. Cooper acknowledged the legal risks of her admission, stating, “If [the police] come 43 years after I have allowed Hamish to die peacefully, then I would have to face the consequences. But they would have to be quick, because I’m dying too.”

Hamish’s death and Cooper’s ill health reinforced her views on assisted dying. She argued, “We don’t do it [let them suffer] to our pets. Why should we do it to humans?” Cooper’s stance has been echoed by campaigners for the right to die, who argue that people should be able to choose to avoid suffering. However, critics worry that changing the law could pressure vulnerable individuals into ending their lives.

In 1982, following Hamish’s death, Cooper and her husband, Alastair, co-founded The Neuroblastoma Society (now Neuroblastoma UK) with another couple, Janet and Neville Oldridge, who had also lost a child to the same cancer. The organization aims to raise awareness and funds for research into the disease.

Cooper authored a book, This is Our Child: How Parents Experience the Medical World, which shares real-life experiences of families and professionals working with ill children.

Assisted dying remains illegal in the UK, though recent discussions in Scotland, Jersey, and the Isle of Man indicate potential legislative changes. Thames Valley Police continue to investigate Cooper’s admission.

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