Couple fly off to die.. but family think they are on holiday
The Mirror (England), Apr. 15, 2003
By Justine Smith And Rosa Prince
A disabled couple flew to a suicide clinic in Switzerland to end their lives – after telling their family they were going on holiday.
Bob Stokes, 60, and his 55-year-old wife Jennie, who have two grown-up children, took lethal doses of drugs the day after arriving.
Jennie’s mother, Doris Moorey, said: “As far as all the family was concerned they were going for a well-deserved holiday.
“The first I heard was when their son David told me they had both died in a clinic. I’d heard of these euthanasia places – they call it suicide tourism – but my daughter and her husband were not terminally ill. They were very ill. Jenny was a diabetic and their pain caused them a great deal of misery.” Mr Stokes suffered from epilepsy.
Mrs Moorey added: “I only wish they’d come to me first. I don’t know whether I could have done anything. It seems they had made up their minds and had not even told their two children their plans.
“I believe in euthanasia for those who cannot face a long drawn-out death and are in terrible pain.
“But what on earth was the clinic doing helping two people commit suicide without any proof that they had terminal illnesses?”
The couple, who lived in a residential home in Leighton Buzzard, Beds, went to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland because voluntary euthanasia is legal there under a 1941 law, but illegal in Britain.
Uta Kaletsch, manager of their home, said: “We didn’t know they had gone. We were contacted by their solicitor to say they had died.”
Mr Stokes was registered disabled and was unable to work. His wife also suffered chronic backache. Their deaths are being investigated by Zurich district attorney Edwin Luscher.
He said: “We know they were terminally ill and both were wheelchair users. The person is first examined by a doctor, who demands to see GP notes confirming he or she is terminally ill.
“Once this is established, they make their way to the Dignitas apartment where they are administered a lethal dose of medicine.”
A family friend said yesterday: “I’m absolutely devastated they felt so desperate to end their lives.
“I’m also surprised because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I don’t think their church would have accepted their decision.
“It must have been an incredibly difficult decision for them to make.”
The couple’s bodies have been flown home from Zurich and the coroner has been informed. Their funeral will take place tomorrow.
Motor neurone sufferer Reginald Crew, 74, from Liverpool, became their first British patient to go public about his planned death in January.