Elderly couple found holding hands in hotel suicide pact
An elderly French couple have ignited a debate on assisted suicide after being found dead in a Paris hotel holding hands and leaving behind a note criticising the country for not allowing them to end their days "serenely".
Friends and family of Bernard and Georgette Cazes, both 86, said there was no doubt the pair were still in love after more than 60 years of marriage; and in the name of that loving unity, they decided to end their lives together at a time and place of their choosing.
Last Friday, staff at the historic Hotel Lutetia walked in with the breakfast tray to find the pair hand in hand on their bed with plastic bags over their faces.
In a letter, Mrs Cazes expressed her anger at not being able to enjoy a more dignified, comfortable departure.
"The law forbids access to any lethal pills that would enable a soft death," the typed note said.
"Should my freedom be only limited by that of others? Who has the right to hinder a person with nobody in their charge, who is up to date with their taxes, having worked all these years and then as a volunteer in the social services (to end their life)? Who has the right to force them to commit cruel practices when they want to leave this life serenely?"
In the letter, addressed to the Paris prosecutor, Mrs Cazes files a complaint for "non-respect of freedom". She authorises her children to file the complaint in her name.
Speaking to 'Le Parisien' yesterday, their son, whose name was not given, said his parents "feared separation and dependency much more than death". He said his parents had made up their minds "decades ago" to commit suicide together when they felt the time was right.
They had been active until recently; Mr Cazes was an eminent economist-philosopher and author of a series of books including 'The History of Futures', which charted how the future was predicted throughout the ages. His wife was an author and Classics teacher, and later a volunteer social worker.
Neither family nor friends provided any specific reasons as to why they had decided to die at this time or whether either was in chronic pain or suffering from a terminal illness. "They had such dynamism, such strong willpower," one neighbour in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux said.
Others described them as "distinguished" and "charming".
"They were a couple who loved each other, you could tell that. One can understand how to go on living without each other would have seemed impossible," said another. They had lived, said their neighbour Jeannine, as they died: "Always arm in arm."
Francois Hollande, France's president, also issued an electoral promise to ensure a "dignified end of life". A 2005 law authorises doctors to administer painkilling drugs at levels they know will, as a secondary effect, shorten a patient's life. (© Daily Telegraph, London)