An assisted-suicide advocate is being accused of murdering his wife and then killing himself last week at a Florida assisted living facility.
The Global Dispatch reports Frank Kavanaugh, 81, a board member of the pro-euthanasia group Final Exit Network, was discovered dead early last Tuesday morning near his dead wife, Barbara, 88.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office believes Kavanaugh shot his wife and then killed himself in a murder-suicide, according to the report. They are investigating the incident. Assisted suicide is a felony in Florida, according to state law.
The alleged shooting occurred at Solaris Health Care Charlotte Harbor in Port Charlotte, Florida, where Barbara was a patient who suffered from dementia, ABC 7 News reports.
Gale Petrillo, who knew the Kavanaughs, spoke to the local news station about their tragic deaths: “He was in good shape, good health. I can’t imagine why this horrible thing happened. I’m stunned. It’s horrific. Sometimes we could hear him say, ‘Barbara, but I’m only trying to help. I’m only trying to help.'”
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Assisted suicide advocates are trying to justify Frank Kavanaugh’s alleged murder of his wife. Janis Landis, president of Final Exit, told the Washington Post that the incident “was not murder.”
“It was a rational suicide,” Landis said. “Both of them made this decision. We’re not surprised that both of them felt strongly about their right to decide the timing and manner of their deaths when the quality of their lives became unacceptable.”
She described Frank Kavanaugh as a dedicated husband who devoted himself to his ailing wife.
The newspaper report continues:
The deaths in Florida this week have already prompted further discussion about the death-with-dignity debate.
Landis, the Final Exit Network president, drew parallels between the Kavanaughs’ deaths and a time before abortion was legal, when some women would use coat hangers to perform their own procedures.
“In an ideal word,” she said, “people would not have to resort to such violent means.”
Robert Rivas, general counsel for the assisted suicide group, blamed current laws for not allowing the couple to die on their own terms.
“The Sheriff’s Office labeled the deaths of Frank and his wife, Barbara, a ‘murder-suicide,’ but I would call it the tragic consequence of living in a country that prohibits people from exercising any type of informed choices in death,” Rivas wrote on Facebook.
Whether Barbara, who had dementia, had an “informed choice” in her death, however, is not indicated. Landis told the newspaper that she was not aware of anyone who knew about the couple’s death plan.
Members of Final Exit have had run-ins with the law before. In 2015, a Minnesota jury convicted the euthanasia group of breaking the law by assisting in the suicide of Doreen Dunn and then interfering with a death scene, LifeNews reported. In 2010, another Final Exit member pleaded guilty in relation to the assisted suicide of a mentally ill Arizona woman, LifeNews reported.
Disability rights organizations, along with pro-life and religious groups, fear the deadly consequences of legalized assisted suicide. These groups argue that the laws in four states that legalized doctor-prescribed suicide do not have safeguards in place to protect vulnerable people from coercion and abuse. For example, patients who request doctor-prescribed suicide are not required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, though depression is a common factor in patients’ requests to die. The laws also do not require any medical professionals or authorities to be present when the person takes the prescribed suicide medication.
The American Medical Association also opposes assisted suicide.
“Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life,” the organization said in its opinion on physician-assisted suicide. “Patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that cure is impossible.”