When Life Is No Longer Worth Living

April 3, 2012

When Life Is No Longer Worth Living
A man and his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife apparently made a death pact due to her disease, report Dana Hedgpeth and Lori Aratani in the WaPo:

Three years ago, Adrienne Snelling wrote letters to her children and grandchildren explaining how she and her husband, Charles D. Snelling, decided to cope with her Alzheimer’s disease.

Adrienne was 79 then and had been battling the illness for about four years. Charles, her husband of nearly 60 years, was her primary caretaker at their home in Fogelsville, Pa. She was an accomplished fine arts photographer; he was prominent in Republican circles and had recently stepped down as chairman of the authority overseeing Reagan and Dulles airports and the construction of Metro’s new $6 billion Silver Line.

“As you know I have Alzheimer’s. It is not a nice disease. So far I have held up pretty well. Dad and I are still having a pretty good life. There is no doubt where my sickness will end up for me,” Adrienne wrote in the Nov. 22, 2009, letter.

She went on: “All of our lives, Dad and I have talked over our end of life beliefs. We are both in agreement that neither one of us wants to live after all reasonable hope for a good life is over. . . . We have had such a great life together and with all of you.”

On Thursday, just over a week after their 61st wedding anniversary, Charles took his own life and his wife’s in their home, police and airport authority officials said. He shot himself, authorities said. They have not said how she died.

One of the couple’s children, Marjorie Snelling, 56, of Philadelphia, said Friday that she knew her parents had talked about a plan to end their lives but that she and her siblings were stunned that it actually happened. There had not been “any specific signs.”

Still, she said, her family believes the pair “were deliberate and thoughtful.”

“They had a plan, and they were going to execute that plan without people knowing,” Marjorie said. “They’ve seen their peers and friends languish. . . . They had really been thinking about this for some time and keeping it a secret.”

More here, reported by Dana Hedgpeth:

“Together they struggled greatly to manage the effects of this devastating disease,” said a statement provided on behalf of the family by the airports authority. “After apparently reaching the point where he could no longer bear to see the love of his life deteriorate further, our father ended our mother’s life and then took his own life as well.

I think the way Adrienne Snelling did: I’ve had a wonderful life so far and I have no desire to live as some human turnip. The sad thing is, there are no legal measures in place to help a sick person end their life when if they so desire — without the helper going to prison.

If you have Alzheimer’s, and you don’t want to live with it, you’re either forced to kill yourself before your brain is entirely gone or chance living as a large, delusional adult infant.

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