Thursday, August 21, 2014
Pennsylvania has had its share of tragic recent stories connected to the death of older persons under circumstances that raise a question of suicide or murder.
Sadly, New Mexico now provides another example, where an 89-year old woman was found dead in the basement of her rural ranch home in early January. Her 69- year old daughter was charged with murder -- and at first the facts seemed to fit, given the very unusual manner of death. But this week the District Attorney dropped the charges, citing the lack of DNA or fingerprints to tie the daughter to the death, as well as expert analysis concluding the mother had written both "suicide notes" explaining her choice.
The notes suggested the older woman "did not want to be a burden to others." That history has led the family, now that the charges have been dropped, to encourage wider "exploration" of options that could prevent future tragedies, especially for older adults. Albuquerque Journal writer Leslie Linthicum, who first encountered both women 24 years before while working on a story about women ranchers in New Mexico, provides a balanced, thoughtful account of this latest tragedy.
As one saying goes, "there has to be a better way," but in most states the law does not currently recognize "better" choices. We're tackling important societal issues on many fronts right now, including same-gender marriage and legalized use of marijuana. Certainly we can also do a better job with laws affecting end-of-life decisions.