August 20, 2011

USA: Elderly couple who refused food and water so they could die with dignity evicted from retirement home

LONDON, England / Daily Mail / News / August 18, 2011

 By Rachel Quigley

After 69 happy years of marriage, Armond and Dorothy Rudolph couldn't face the prospect of life without each other. They also couldn't face the prospect of early dementia, failing health and ultimate indignity. They wanted to die.

At 92 years old Armond Rudolph suffered severe pain from spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal column. Dorothy, 90, was also almost entirely immobile.

Right to die: Armond and Dorothy Rudolph, from New Mexico, died aged 92 and 90 after refusing water and food and being evicted from their living facility

Deciding that they had a right to die in the way they wanted, the couple decided they would simply refuse food and water at their assisted living facility at the Village at Alameda, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to their son Neil Rudolph, they maintained they had a right to die and were determined to go through with it.

Three days into their fast, the couple told their plan to staff at the facility. Administrators immediately called 911, citing an attempted suicide, according to ABC.

After they refused staff's orders to eat again, they were handed their eviction papers from The Village and the next day moved into a private residence their children leased where they continued with their fast.

'Life is miserable. Our bodies are pretty rotten by now. You name it, I've had it' One week later, Armond Rudolph died. His 90-year-old wife died the following day.

Their son Neil said of their deaths: 'Both knew that they didn't want to endure a lingering decline. Neither wanted to lose their independence.'

Speaking to the Albuquerque Journal after they were evicted from The Village in January, Mrs Rudolph said: 'Life is miserable. Our bodies are pretty rotten by now. You name it, I've had it.'

She said her husband, who she met at church when she was just 15-years-old, was in 'constant pain'.

The Rudolphs met as teenagers at a Baptist church in Flint, Michigan, and married in 1941. They had two children, Neil and Elaine.

Dorothy Rudolph said she still remembers that first meeting when she was 15. She had dropped her gloves outside her church.

She recalled: 'He yelled at me, "you dropped your gloves, girly".'

The couple moved to New Mexico in 1949, when Armond took a job as a commercial printer.

They were active members of the Presbyterian Church and enjoyed family, camping and gardening, according to information provided by the family.

Mr Rudolph was a lithographer and volunteered as a fireman, with the Boy Scouts of America, and with a jail ministry.

Mrs was a homemaker, volunteered in Scouting, and enjoyed crafts.

The Village at Alameda administrator Marcia Wegmann released this statement to the Journal: 'Assisted living facilities are equipped to provide assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing and bathing.

'If we see that someone in our care requires alternate placement, medical attention, or a level of care beyond the facility's capabilities, we have an obligation to notify a medical provider.'

Evicted: At 92 and 90, the couple were told to leave the Village Alameda assisted living facility after they made the decision to die

Neil Rudolph, together with Compassion & Choices, an organization that seeks to improve care and expand end-of-life choices, is launching a campaign called 'Peace at Life's End. Anywhere'.

The initiative is meant to spread awareness of options, including the right to voluntarily stop eating and drinking to end one's life.

Neil told ABC: 'Nearly one million Americans live in these facilities, yet most don't know how their end-of-life rights could be infringed upon as my parents' were.

'Their eviction shocked me. I think it's inhuman for mentally competent adults to be overruled at the end of their lives by an assisted living facility administrator, or by anyone else.

'My parents had a very strong aversion to ever ending up in a nursing home. Before they lost control of their own lives, they wanted to make this decision.'

While starving of hunger and thirst may sound frightening to most, end-of-life specialists said it's actually a fairly painless way to end.

Dr Mohana Karlekar, director of palliative care at Vanderbilt University, said: 'Most individuals who voluntarily stop eating after several hours stop feeling hungry.

'They sometimes will feel euphoria due to metabolic changes in the body. And so, yes, it is a peaceful way to go.'

The 86-bed Village at Alameda is owned by Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings LLC.

Assisted living facilities provide separate apartments for individuals and couples, and different levels of personal care, depending on what residents need.

Associated Newspapers Ltd
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