After reaching their tenth decade, surviving a slew of chronic illnesses and entering the early stages of dementia, Armond and Dorothy Rudolph decided there was one thing left for them to accomplish: dying with dignity.
According to their son, Neil Rudolph, the couple - aged 92 and 90 - was adamant about the fact that they had the right to die and decided they would simply refuse food and water at their Albuquerque, N.M. assisted living facility. Three days into their fast, they informed staff at The Village at Alameda of their plan, who immediately called 911, citing an attempted suicide, according to ABC News.
Both knew that they didn't want to endure a lingering decline, Neil Rudolph told the news source. Neither wanted to lose their independence.
The Rudolph's were evicted from the Village at Alameda the next day and moved into a private residence, where they went on with their plan. One week later Armond Rudolph died, while Dorothy followed the next day.
Inspired by his parents' story, Rudolph - along with the organization Compassion & Choices - is launching a campaign called Peace at Life's End. The initiative aims to spread awareness of end-of-life options, including the right to voluntary refuse food and drink.
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, Rudolph said, adding that many people who live in retirement homes are unaware of how their end-of-life rights can be infringed upon.
While the choice may difficult for many to stomach, for some individuals life is a scarier sentence to death. Shortly after the couple was evicted from The Village at Alameda in January, Dorothy Rudolph attempted to explain her choice to The Albuquerque Journal.
Life is miserable. Our bodies are pretty rotten by now. You name it, I've had it, she said.
Staff at The Village at Alameda refused to comment on the Rudolph's' eviction, according to ABC News.
Marshall Kapp, the director of the Florida State University Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine and Law, told the source that staff at the facility could have been met with the heavy hand of the law if they had complied with the Rudolph's plan. The retirement home could have been prosecuted by the district attorney or the state regulatory licensing agency for possible neglect, Kapp said, adding that the situation was particularly sticky since neither person suffered from a medical condition that required a feeding tube to keep them alive.
Legal apprehensions probably played a big part in their decision, along with the fear of bad publicity, Kapp said.
Euthanasia is a hot-button issue across the globe and is legal in only a handful of nations. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg have legalized active euthanasia, while assisted suicide is permitted in Switzerland. In the U.S., assisted suicide is legal in Washington, Oregon and Montana, although patients across the nation have the right to refuse medical treatment even if the choice hastens their death.
In May, more than three-quarters of Swiss voters rejected a ban on assisted suicide and a proposed ban on suicide tourism that would have made it illegal for foreigners to travel to the country in search of a doctor who could help them end their life. World Radio Switzerland reported that the practice is viewed as a humanitarian act in the country and that approximately 200 people - including tourists - commit assisted suicide in Zurich each year.