Mercy death plea after man’s suicide

Rita Warren and pictures of Fred Johnstone her late stepfather.
Rita Warren and pictures of Fred Johnstone her late stepfather.

A CITY woman whose 86-year-old stepfather took his own life has thrown her weight behind a campaign to legalise assisted suicide.

Rita Warren – known to her friends as Joy – told of her anguish at finding the body of photographer Fred Johnstone and her fear that he could have suffered for up to 48 hours after overdosing on paracetamol.

A Lancaster Coroner’s Court inquest heard that Mr Johnstone, who had suffered with a curved spine and poor hearing and sight, may have taken around 100 pills prior to his death on January 14.

Ms Warren, 67, a former psychiatric nurse, who lives on Chelsea Mews, Skerton, said she would have helped him die had he asked – even though she could have ended up being prosecuted for causing his death.

She said she would be prepared to help other relatives to end their lives if they were suffering and would herself consider using Swiss clinic Dignitas, where people can quickly end their lives through a drug overdose administered by qualified medical staff.

“I would support a change in the law meaning relatives are immune from prosecution if they help a relative who wants to die to end their life,” she said.

“But I fell so passionately about this that I would risk going to prison.

“I’m glad Fred managed on his own because he would have wanted to, however, I would have liked to save him from 24 hours or maybe 48 hours of suffering which would not have been nice,” she said.

See the Lancaster Guardian (16-06-11) for full story.