Coroner: 'suicide advice websites should be named to allow scrutiny'

Coroner: 'suicide advice websites should be named to allow scrutiny'

PUBLIC INTEREST: One of the assisted suicide websites which the coroner said should be named

SCUTINY: Assistant coroner Dr Dominic Bell said websites which advise on suicide should be made public so they can be monitored

First published in News
Last updated

A BRADFORD coroner has warned that suicide advice sites need to be made a matter of public interest after a librarian suffocated herself.

Gillian Clarke, 47, had been reading up on how to end her life and had been e-mailing assisted suicide sites from her iPod, the Bradford inquest heard yesterday.

She was found dead on her bed after police broke into her home in Walker Road, Menston, on April 26 this year - she had also taken a potentially lethal dose of a sedative.

Miss Clarke had not been in touch with her parents that day despite it being her mother's birthday and they had raised the alarm after getting no reply from her home which was locked from the inside.

A book called Five Last Acts: The Exit Path was found among her belongings and when her mother unlocked her daughter's iPod she found e-mail correspondence with two subscription organisations advocating assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

Assistant coroner Dr Dominic Bell named those organisations as Peaceful Pill handbook.com and Exit International - despite objections from Miss Clarke's family.

Dr Bell said he had concerns about the existence of such exit organisations and it was important they were open to public scrutiny because if no-one was monitoring their activities then no one would have any idea of the impact they were having.

He said: "There are potential vulnerable people out there who may well be informed or manipulated by exit organisations and it's only by making this public record that attention can be drawn to such circumstances. It is important that some scrutiny is given to these organisations to limit the adverse possibilities on vulnerable individuals."

He concluded Miss Clarke's death was suicide and that it had been clear from evidence from doctors she had been incredibly troubled by a series of medical disorders, for which there had been no one specific diagnosis or treatment that could restore her well-being.

Miss Clarke, who had a previous history of depression, had been suffering stomach problems, weakness in her legs, appetite and weight loss yet all medical tests had come back normal - however, she was due to go back to hospital for more investigations because she had grown so thin.

The sub-heading of the book found at Miss Clarke's home was "the arts and science of rational suicide in the face of unbearable, unrelievable suffering."

"It's sad she could not see a way out of that scenario and that she elected to take her life in an informed manner knowing what the consequences would be," said Dr Bell.

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