The devastated sons of a wheelchair-bound woman who took her own life after consulting an “abhorrent” euthanasia website have spoken of their fury that it hasn’t been shut down.
Multiple-sclerosis sufferer Catherine Veasey, known as Anne, died in August last year after taking an overdose of an illegal drug she had ordered from China.
Now, after an inquest into her death which has cleared the care home where she lived of any involvement, the 71-year-old’s sons have spoken out against the website which supported her.
“They told her what she needed to do, how to do it,” said Peter and Michael Twyman, speaking to the Advertiser after the inquest.
“If someone gives you a loaded gun and then tells you how to use it - are they not culpable?”
Mrs Veasey, who had lived in Harrogate since the 1960s, died at the Southlands Nursing Home on August 1 last year.
Police launched an investigation into her death after it emerged she had been visited just weeks before by a member of Exit International.
This Australian-based website, founded by the prominent campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, describes itself as a “leading end-of-life information organisation,” and details methods of suicide.
Mrs Veasey’s sons said this website should accept some responsibility.
“This organisation is going around promoting the act of people ending their own lives,” they said. “It’s abhorrent. My mother still had an active life. She had another five or 10 years of life left.
“To encourage a person in that situation is completely inappropriate.”
The police investigation was dropped after a voluntary interview with Mrs Veasey’s visitor, Tom Curran from Ireland. Dr Nitschke, speaking to the Advertiser this week, said it is foolish to suggest they were in any way responsible.
“She was not the kind of person to be influenced by a website,” he said. “These are the actions of a rational individual who took full responsibility for her own death.”
Dr Nitschke said it was important that people like Mrs Veasey had access to information, denying that this made them accountable.
“To give people information allows them to make decisions,” he said, defending the website.
“To keep people in the dark to keep them safe is naive. That leaves them to become desperate and desperate people take desperate actions.”
Mrs Veasey, a grandmother of five, was a member of the Harrogate Dramatic Society and the Operatic Society.
A former director of a pensions company in Leeds, she was a member of Mensa and had taken up the study of quantum physics shortly before her death.
She was described by her sons as a “strong-willed woman with a wicked sense of humour”, and even after she moved into the nursing home would look forward to visits from her two rescue dogs, Jed and Roxy.
But in the months before her death, the inquest last Thursday heard, her illness had worsened.
What’s more, said staff at the home, she had been facing severe financial troubles after North Yorkshire County Council cut her funding and had been “uncontrollably upset” at news that she could no longer afford her room and would have to move to a smaller one.
Coroner Rob Turnbull, recording a verdict of suicide, said Mrs Veasey had taken her own life before her MS became “unbearable”.
Tony Collins, chief executive of Harrogate charity Saint Michael’s Hospice, said that euthenasia doesn’t have to be an option.
“The focus seems to be that people are afraid of dying with a lack of dignity, or in pain,” he said. “It’s clear to me that if more resources were made available that wouldn’t be an issue.”