Human Exceptionalism

A Reader Reacts to the Abandonment to Agonizing Suicide of Kerrie Wooltorton

SHSers may recall the awful death of Kerrie Wooltorton in the UK, who drank anti freeze as a suicide method and was let die because she had a note pinned to her clothes saying she didn’t want to be saved (even though she called the ambulance).

A reader who has asked to remain anonymous sent me a poignant letter off stage, and has kindly permitted me to reproduce it here. I think the comments are important:

I was wondering if you have heard any update on the Kerrie Wooltorton story and whether the inquest has made a decision regarding a duty of care owed to people like Kerrie.

Her story touched me because I am a law student who has had 6 suicide attempts in the last 16 months. 5 of those attempts resulted in ICU admission, ventilated and intubated in an induced coma (at various hospitals). The other in the cardiac ward for 10 days. In one particular hospital, I was discharged from ICU without any follow up care. I was told numerous occasions that my actions were my responsibility because I had a personality disorder.

If I had a legitimate mental illness such as depression which would have resulted in me having impaired judgment and affected my capacity to think rationally they would have had a duty of care towards me, I was told by a psychiatrist. I told the same psychiatrist that I was still suicidal and whether it was my responsibility or not, I was still in deep despair and wanted out of the world. He had to then schedule (section) me as “a mentally disordered” person who was at serious harm to herself. I asked him why he was scheduling me since he thought it was my full responsibility, if not only to save his legal arse. He could not answer.

When I was severely ill, I agreed with the doctors because I had a right to “self-determination”. I feel quite sick because I could have easily ended up like Kerrie. Like her, I felt hopeless about the future or that anything would improve. I would be interested to know whether the inquest determines it lawful to let people with personality disorders die by their own hand when this could have been prevented.

By any name, allowing Kerrie to die was abandonment. I am so happy that our correspondent has been able to fight through the darkness and back to the light of day–despite the seeming indifference of her psychiatrist.

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