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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 08:18 GMT
'I helped my son commit suicide'
Heather Pratten
Heather Pratten knew her son wanted to die
Heather Pratten sat by her terminally ill son's bedside as he took a heroin overdose in a bid to kill himself.

As Nigel, who had Huntington's disease, slipped into a coma and his lips turned blue, she gave him a cuddle and then put a pillow over his face.

Nigel Goodman
Nigel's disease meant he could no longer walk or eat properly
"I had promised him I wouldn't let him be resuscitated," Mrs Pratten of Rayleigh, Essex, told the BBC.

"He was very definite about dying, he had seen his father suffer the same disease," she said. "It was the most difficult thing I've done in my life."

It was an agonising decision for her and her son, but both believed quality of life was of utmost importance.

'Life had gone'

Nigel had difficulty moving and eating and was beginning to choke because of Huntington's, a hereditary brain disease which causes physical and psychological symptoms and ultimately death.

"He felt life for him had gone," Mrs Pratten said.

Most upsetting for Nigel was that he could no longer draw.

"He had always drawn, he always carried a pencil around with him."

Faced with a deteriorating quality of life, Nigel took the decision to commit suicide.


They [Nigel and Miss B] both saw quality of life as more than just life

Heather Pratten
"Nigel got some heroin, but it was difficult for him to inject because of his movements with Huntington's.

"He found it easier to eat the heroin off a spoon," Mrs Pratten said.

Mother and son then lay next to one another and talked.

"Eventually he slipped into a coma for about five hours."

But Mrs Pratten became worried someone would come round to her son's flat and raise the alarm.

Strong views

Nigel was determined he did not want to be resuscitated, she said, so she put a pillow over his face.

"I knew he was nearly dead when I did that."

Mrs Pratten called the police and told them what she had done. Initially on bail for murder, she was eventually given a one-year conditional discharge for aiding and abetting suicide.

Heather Pratten feels she has gone through what no mother should. And she has strong views on the case of Miss B which has some similarities with her son's.

"She's looked at her quality of life and is very definite. They both saw quality of life as more than just life. I think she should be allowed to refuse treatment, which is not against the law."

One of Mrs Pratten's other sons, Philip, also has Huntington's and is in a care home.

But he has never shown any desire to die, his mother says.

"He's always like being looked after, whereas my other son was fiercely independent."

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Mrs Heather Pratten
"I put a pillow over his face"
See also:

23 Jan 02 | Health
Right-to-die case fast-tracked
04 Oct 01 | Health
Woman granted right to die
05 Oct 00 | Health
Court hears 'right to die' cases
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