Elderly U.K. Couple in Good Health Commit Suicide, Complain of Assisted Suicide Law
By Hilary White
November 6, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An elderly, but healthy British couple who are thought to have committed suicide together, sent a letter to the BBC just before their deaths complaining about the law prohibiting assisted suicide.
Neither Dennis nor Flora Milner of Newbury, Berkshire, aged 83 and 81 respectively, were ill or disabled, the BBC reports. Instead they wrote that they had merely decided that they wanted to die while they were still able to live in their own home without assistance. Their bodies were found on Sunday morning by friends. Local police have said that the two "unexplained deaths" are "not thought to be suspicious."
The letter to the BBC reads, "We have each reached the point where all the finest available treatment and TLC can no longer attain the desired and acceptable level to support an enjoyable and worthwhile life.
"To force the issue beyond this point would mean for us a living death; we have therefore chosen to peacefully end our lives."
Mr. Milner added a postscript to the letter complaining of how difficult it had been "arranging this so that it does not fail."
"Today we have been denied what we believe to be our basic human right - to terminate our own lives, in our own home, at our own choosing, with our loved ones around us, without anyone having to face any legal possibilities or harassment."
He called the legal situation an "inevitable and ongoing serious human dilemma which needs to be urgently and positively resolved. Please help."
The couple's daughter, Chrissy, told the BBC that her parents had wanted "a good death" and that she and her brother Nigel "fully supported their decision." Milner said that although her parents did not suffer from serious illnesses or disabilities and admitted they were "generally fit and well," she said that they had both suffered from arthritic hips and her mother had macular degeneration.
"We wouldn't have considered, for one moment, trying to talk them out of it," she said.
"It was their choice to go. It was their decision to commit suicide and they had very sound reasons for doing so," she added.
But not everyone in Britain is so sanguine. Fr. Timothy Finigan, a theology professor and founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life, told LifeSiteNews.com that the case of the Milners, and especially the reaction of their adult children, exemplifies the power which the culture of death has acquired over the minds of people in Britain.
"There are polls," Fr. Finigan said, "that indicate a lot of people have been completely taken in on assisted suicide. But what it really indicates is the complete lack of value of the elderly in our society."
"Old age psychiatrists say that the problems of depression faced by many elderly people are largely because of the fact that they are not valued by their own families or by society as a whole. Wisdom isn't valued, the contributions they make to their own families aren't valued, to the point where they are encouraged to commit suicide."
Suicide, he said, is seen as the easy way out when faced with the difficulties of old age. "If there's an easy way out, and people are saying it's a good thing, it becomes an easy thing to convince people to commit sin."
"They've taken the advice from people in authority, from the media, heard all about the 'hard cases' and heard very little said against it. They have taken all that on board and a lot of ordinary people end up thinking assisted suicide is a good thing."
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said that the case needs to be investigated by police "to establish whether any other person was involved in the deaths."
"We would like them to look into issues such as possible social or financial pressures the couple might have been under," Tully said. SPUC intends to press the issue with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and urge him to investigate.
SPUC warned that the reporting on the case could spur others to do the same to promote their "pet causes," including the abolition of the UK's assisted suicide law. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of the suicide campaign group Dignity in Dying - formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society - was quoted early by the BBC saying that the case highlights the fears people have about "suffering unnecessarily at the end of life."
Wootton blamed the "lack of a safeguarded choice which can prompt people to take drastic action through fear."