A judge’s heart-wrenching account of a euthanasia trial has triggered a renewed conversation in China about an emotive subject which sharply divides the country. The case involved a woman, surnamed Leng, from Taizhou city in Zhejiang province, eastern China, who was suffering from an autoimmune disease. Leng had asked her son-in-law to buy rat poison to help her end the pain of her illness. The court heard that Leng swallowed the poison with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, surnamed Zhang, gathered around her bed to bid her a tearful farewell. The three were charged with murder and sentenced to jail terms of two to five years, despite moving accounts from other relatives of the loving care they had given Leng and their financial struggles to keep her alive. Man, 70, deemed murderer by court after killing sick wife in euthanasia case In an article published this week in Hangzhou Daily , trial judge Guo Jing acknowledged that euthanasia was a very sensitive topic. “If the defendant is given a mild penalty, society might mistake it as an encouragement of such acts. If they are given a heavy penalty, it defies the spirit of prudence and kindness,” he wrote. This is not the first time a Chinese court has treated a euthanasia case as murder. In 2009, a woman named Hu Qing collapsed into a coma at home. A week after she was hospitalised Hu’s husband Wen Yuzhang, unable to bear her suffering, disconnected her breathing tube. Hu died an hour later. In 2010, the court sentenced him to three years in prison for premeditated murder. A survey in 2013, by the public opinion research centre at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, of more than 3,400 residents from 34 Chinese cities found about 70 per cent did not object to euthanasia. Learning to live with death: Ji Cien organises workshops that tackle Chinese taboo “Theoretically, patients who suffer from extreme pain have the right to die with dignity. But in reality, euthanasia is not only a legal problem but also a social and moral problem,” Yan Sanzhong, a law professor at Jiangxi Normal University told Legal Daily . Yan said China was not ready to legalise euthanasia, adding that the lack of a comprehensive social system was the major reason why the public had not been given the choice. China’s medical resources were too concentrated in developed cities, which made it difficult for rural hospitals to be qualified to make such decisions. Patients may also choose to die just to save money for their children, while people may be tempted to kill their parents to escape the responsibility of caring for them. Some members of China’s online community echoed the professor’s opinion on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “As long as there is a comprehensive system, I support euthanasia. This is a relief to the patient and his family,” one wrote. “Some countries have a comprehensive procedure for euthanasia. Why can’t our country introduce that?” wrote another.