Category: Nonfiction

Intention in Cases of Assisted Dying – Dr John Bodkin Adams

Guest blog by David Holding, Author of books on Killer Doctors…

Reliance on the existence of medical privilege is attributed to Dr John Bodkin Adams who when arrested in 1956 on suspicion of murder arising from his medical practice, is said to have protested: “She wanted to die, that cannot be murder. It is impossible to accuse a doctor”. Unfortunately for him, his opinion was erroneous and he was prosecuted, albeit unsuccessfully. However, the legal importance of the case is that it endorsed the validity of the ethical doctrine of ‘Double Effect’ in English law. Dr Adams prescribed large and rapidly increasing doses of opiates to relieve disturbed sleep in a number of elderly care-home residents, many of whom had made bequests to the doctor in their will.

What was not explored at the time of the trial or since, is whether or not a GP can act with ‘Double Intent’ as distinct from ‘Double Effect’? In the general context of the administration of opiates to patients with a terminal illness, it is possible that in some instances, the GP does intend to hasten death as well as relieve symptoms.

This crucial importance of ‘intention’ was re-emphasised in the 1992 trial of R v Cox (12 BMLR 38). Consultant rheumatologist Dr Nigel Cox had managed the severe destructive arthritis of Mrs Lilian Boyes for 17 years and had an excellent relationship with both her and her family. She was in severe and constant pain which resisted even the opiates, and surrounded by her family, she begged and pleaded for assistance to die. Without discussing his decision with the nursing staff, Dr Cox administered intravenous potassium chloride to Mrs Boyes who subsequently died.

Dr Cox was charged with the attempted murder of Mrs Boyes on 16 August 1991 and stood trial in September 1992. The prosecution led evidence that, injected in that manner, and in the quantity, the drug had no therapeutic property, and that the accused intended in so administering it, to end the life of his patient. The defence argued that the primary purpose of the accused was to relieve the pain of the dying patient, and therefore, that there was no intention to kill the patient.

Mrs Boyes’s body was cremated and, therefore, it was no longer possible to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the sick woman had died as a result of the Doctor’s actions. As a result, the lesser charge of ‘attempted murder’ was brought. This introduced the legal advantage of a sentence amenable to judicial discretion. Dr Cox was convicted but given only a one year suspended sentence. Following a disciplinary hearing by the General Medical Council, (GMC) he was allowed to continue in practice subject to some retraining.

The distinction between the cases of Dr Bodkin Adams and Dr Cox, rested on ‘intention’. Both were motivated to act by the benevolent wish to relieve symptoms, but Dr Cox intended to kill, if only to secure pain relief. Dr Bodkin Adams intended only to relieve distress. Criminal offences are defined in terms of ‘act’ and ‘intent’. Motive can be an exonerating factor, as it was for Dr Cox, but only influences the sentence handed down.

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A Lancashire Witch’s Cottage?

A blog by David Holding, author of ‘The Pendle Witch Trials of 1612’.

An interesting article appeared in the Lancashire press in December 2011 under the headline:

“WITCH’S COTTAGE UNEARTHED NEAR PENDLE HILL, LANCASHIRE”

Engineers have said they were stunned to unearth a 17th century cottage, complete with a cat skeleton, during a construction project in Lancashire. The cottage was discovered near Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill. Archaeologists brought in by United Utilities to survey the area, found the building under a grass mound. Historians are now speculating that the well-preserved cottage could have belonged to one of the Pendle Witches. The building contained a sealed room with the bones of the cat bricked into the wall. It is believed that the cat was buried alive to protect the cottage’s inhabitants from evil spirits

Carl Sanders, United Utilities’ project manager said ”It’s not often you come across a fairy-tale cottage, complete with witch’s cat. The building is in remarkable condition. You can walk through it and get a real sense that you are seeing into the past. Pendle Hill has a real aura about it, and it’s hard not to be affected by the place”.

United Utilities routinely bring in experts before turning the topsoil in areas believed to have archaeological significance. A spokesman for NP Archaeology said, “It’s like discovering your own little Pompeii. As soon as we started digging, we found the tops of doors, and we knew we were on to something special”.

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Winter Hill – Life and Trade

Blog by David Holding, author of “Murder in the Heather” The Winter Hill Murder of 1838″.

Travelling up the Winter Hill road towards the TV station, you pass over a ‘cattle grid’ in the road. Then the road bends to the left, with a metal crash barrier on the right side of the road.

This is the area of Winter Hill known locally as “Hole Bottom”. From the early 19th century, this was the location of a thriving small working community.

Just below the barrier stood a Brick and Tile Works, surrounded by several coal pits. Further up the road and on the left side stood a row of terraced cottages known as “Five Houses”. One of these doubled as an Ale House.
The works, cottages, and coal-pits were all owned by a William Garbutt, who features prominently in my Winter Hill Murder book.

These cottages appear on old maps of the area up to 1894 when the first Survey maps were produced. This would suggest that by 1894 the cottages and tile works had been demolished.

An interesting article has come to light on searching the Bolton Chronicle dated 19th February, 1849. This carries the following advert:

“TO BE LET – an extensive and well-established Fire Brick and Tile Works situated at Five Houses on Horwich Moor, the present owner being desirous of retiring from the business. The works are complete with Steam Engine, Grinding and Crushing apparatus, stoves, dry-houses, ovens, moulds and every convenience for carry out the business. The clay and coal are of superior quality and are got on the premises. Any person taking the works can be accommodated with five or six acres of land, and a few cottages adjoining. For particulars, apply to Mr William Garbutt at the premises, or on Friday, at the King’s Arms and Four Horse Shoes, Bolton”.

What this information does show is that Winter Hill was a thriving centre of local industry for most of the 19th century, and part of the common ‘domestic system’ of industry of that period.

Regarding ‘Murder in the Heather’:

This book is a unique account of a brutal murder which occurred on the summit of Winter Hill in Lancashire in 1838. The account draws on both contemporary media reports and court transcripts, and examines the events leading up to the killing of a 21-year old packman. It details the proceedings of the trial of the only suspect in the case. The work concludes with a re-assessment of the case in the light of modern forensic investigation. The reader is invited to reach their own ‘verdict’ based on the evidence provided.

A search of the 1881 Census for the area reveals that two families were occupying the Five Houses at that time, in addition to Mr Garbutt. One family, the Thompsons, consisted of husband and wife, together with 6 children, aged from 19 to 6. The father and the two eldest sons were employed at the Tile Works, and described as Terra Cotta Workers. Another family, the Hampsons, also occupied the cottages, the father and son both employed at the works. It can only be assumed that a new tenant had taken possession of the Brick and Tile works possibly around 1850 and carried on the business until the early 1890s. After that time, it is likely that both the works and cottages were demolished.

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Interview with Parents who Made their Daughter’s Dream Come True

Thirty years after Penny Taylor’s death, Judith Taylor has published a book of her life, and it’s a beautiful tribute to a wonderful young woman. Crammed full of art, letters, stories, poems, photographs and memories.

The book is available here.
Lesley at Scott Martin Productions was also fortunate to chat to Judith and John Taylor, and has put together a little film of that interview.

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The Role of a Forensic Anthropologist, by David Holding (Guest Blog)

David Holding, my colleague at Scott Martin Productions, is now blogging on subjects related to his non-fiction publications – see them here.

The role a Forensic Anthropologist plays in a death investigation is crucial to the field of forensic science as a whole. Anthropologists understand the forms and variations of various forms of skeletal properties, and apply their knowledge to their work in order to obtain reasonable conclusions. The main focus of their work is to process crime scenes, examine and process remains, develop a biological profile, compile appropriate documentation and testify in court. The anthropologist must be able to differentiate between human and nonhuman remains. The Forensic Anthropologist offers unknown deceased individuals an identity by developing a biological profile to portray their physical characteristics. There are various contributing factors that help to establish an individual’s age, sex and stature. To determine the age of the remains, the anthropologist must apply their knowledge of skeletal and dental development to their conclusions. Ossification centres in bones help to determine age in individuals. Ascertaining age also depends on the dental development of the subject. Odontological identification of the individual based on dental records assist in establishing the age range of the individual. The determination of biological sex of a subject can be determined by examining the difference between male and female pelvises, primarily due to the specific differences in size and shape..

Establishing the living stature of a subject, the most reliable results are obtained from many formulae that can be used. These are based on the bone lengths of the lower limbs. The Forensic Anthropologist contributes to the outcome of a death investigation by providing law enforcement agencies with answers and conclusions, through their knowledge of the human skeleton. The evidence that a Forensic Anthropologist presents to a coroner or medical examiner is crucial in understanding the cause of death in an investigation based on an examination of the skeletal remains.

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