Man Charged After Killing Wife in Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia Advocates Raise Money to Defend Him

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 3, 2017   |   12:47PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

A Lancaster, Pennsylvania woman died on Monday after her husband allegedly tried to help her commit suicide less than two weeks ago.

Lancaster Online reports Philip M. Benight, 60, was charged with a felony after police said he fed his wife, Rebecca, 73, an overdose of prescription drugs mixed with vanilla pudding on Jan. 22 in an attempt to help her commit suicide. The report states Rebecca had dementia and was in a nursing home.

According to Manor Township police, Philip Benight took his wife out from the nursing home on Jan. 21; when they did not return that day, police were called to check on them. Police said they found the Benights unconscious in a vehicle at their home early on the morning of Jan. 22. Allegedly, Philip Benight tried to kill both himself and his wife, according to police.

Both were taken to the hospital and treated. Philip Benight later was charged with a felony count of aiding suicide; he posted bail on Jan. 25, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports.

Rebecca Benight died at the hospital on Monday, according to the county coroner. It is not clear if her death was the result of the alleged assisted suicide attempt.

Here’s more from the report:

According to police, Benight had crushed “a large quantity of prescription medications,” including Oxycodone, Percocet and Valium, and mixed them with vanilla pudding that he fed to his wife.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he also ate the pudding or if he swallowed a handful of pills.

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Police said he left a typed note in the home that said he was killing himself because “I’m not willing to live in prison for murder.”

He was treated at the hospital and released.

Authorities said they still are investigating.

The case has stirred up assisted suicide advocates who have been pushing Pennsylvania to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide for several years.

One advocate, Marie Fouche, a Colorado woman and friend of the family, began a fundraiser to help pay Philip Benight’s legal expenses. She claimed he just wanted to help his wife “die with dignity.” On the fundraising page, Fouche said Pennsylvania does not have a law to “protect” people who want to help a loved one commit suicide.

She said Rebecca Benight struggled with life-long health problems as a result of being in a car accident as a child. In September, she said her friend also had a stroke, and the Benights struggled to get in-home care.

Foche said Rebecca and Philip agreed to commit suicide together because of their struggles with insurance and the nursing home where Rebecca was staying. She described the couple as “devoted” to each other.

Brett Hambright, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, told Lancaster Online that Rebecca Benight made “multiple statements” to those close to her that she did not want to live in her current condition.

Disability rights advocates, medical professionals, pro-life and religious groups and many others have very serious concerns about legalized assisted suicide. When doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, many believe it creates pressure on people to end their lives prematurely, rather than encourage society to provide people with the care they deserve.

Laws also do not protect vulnerable people from coercion and abuse. In states where doctor-prescribe suicide is legal, no mental health evaluation is required for the patient. The laws also do not require a doctor or other medical professional to be present when the person takes the suicide drugs.

In states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, people also are being denied medical treatment coverage and offered assisted suicide instead. LifeNews has reported about cases in Oregon and Vermont as well as California.

Wife and mother of four Stephanie Packer is one of them. In an interview with Orange County Catholic, the young, terminally ill mom said her California Medicare plan initially refused to pay for her medical treatment but offered to pay for assisted suicide drugs instead. The deadly drugs would have cost her just $1.20, she said.