It has been claimed that two ‘healthy and happy’ American sisters who died by assisted suicide in Switzerland last month were ‘helped’ by a third person who texted friends while posing as the sisters.
Lila Ammouri, a 54-year-old palliative care doctor, and Susan Frazier, a 49-year-old registered nurse, travelled to Basel, Switzerland on February 3, from their home in Phoenix, Arizona. Swiss authorities have confirmed that the sisters died by assisted suicide, with the Basel-Landschaft Public Prosecutor’s Office confirming to The Independent that the women had ended their lives ‘within the legal framework’ of the country.
While it is not clear how or where the sisters died, the Swiss city of Basel is home to assisted suicide facility, Pegasos, which helps patients who are not terminally ill to kill themselves for a fee of $11,000. The controversial organisation helps anyone end their lives, as long as they are over the age of 18.
According to Pegasos, anyone who uses their services must have a third party who is known to the individual be available to identify them to the authorities after they die. If the sisters did use Pegasos service, it is unknown who would have been with them to identify them.
Long-time friend of the sisters, Dr. David Bilgari, said that no one had heard from them since 9th February, four days after they arrived in Switzerland. He added that some of their final texts appeared to have been ‘sent by someone else’.
Speaking to Fox 10, Bilgari said that co-workers had been texting them and felt that the person responding was not actually one of the sisters.
“Some of the text communications they had, we are certain they were not from them,” Biglari said. “They were most likely fabricated with someone else.”
Before the sisters were confirmed to have died, friends and colleagues of the two said they thought foul play was involved, and were worried the sisters may never come home.
“They were in a very good position of their lives in terms of careers and what they have reached and accomplished, and there is no reason for them to not be returning on their own volition,” Dr. David Biglari said last month.
Their brother, Cal Ammouri, 60, said he is devastated by their deaths and does not know why his sisters, a palliative care doctor and a registered nurse, would commit suicide. Mr Ammouri said he spoke to his sisters shortly before their trip and they did not mention that they were travelling with anyone else.
It was only when Ms Frazier failed to return to work when her employer, Aetna Health in Phoenix, raised the alarm on the 15th February.
Mr Ammouri says his sisters appeared healthy and happy, and has not given any indication as to whether they were suffering any illness that could have driven them to suicide.
According to Mr Ammouri and long-time friends of the women, the sisters were due to return to work at Aetna Health Insurance on February 15 but never showed up.
The grieving brother said that both his sisters appeared happy, with Lila owning a home in Phoenix and enjoying her job helping patients with serious illnesses and pain and Susan recently getting a promotion.
“Why would you leave your jobs, your home, your loved ones, just abandon everything?” Cal asked. “I just want some answers.”
Like Mr Ammouri, the sisters’ friend, Mr Bilgari, said that both sisters were happy and it was not like them to suddenly go missing.
Pegasos says it accepts applications from patients across the world, but insists it refers anyone who is suffering from depression to counselling services.
It states on its website: “Pegasos believes that for a person to be in the headspace of considering ending their lives, their quality of life must be qualitatively poor.
“Pegasos accepts that some people who are not technically ‘sick’ may want to apply for a VAD.”
The debate surrounding introducing assisted suicide continues in Ireland. In December, the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland issued a stark warning against legalising Assisted Suicide, saying it could place vulnerable patients at risk and cautioning that such deaths are often not peaceful, “may be inhumane”, and may result in “considerable and protracted suffering.”
“In view of the frequency with which human dignity is cited as a justification for PAS-E [Physician Assisted Suicide – Euthanasia], it is important to point out that medical euthanasia is frequently not a peaceful process; there are reports of prolongation of death (up to 7 days), and re‐awakening from coma (up to 4%). This raises a concern that some deaths may be inhumane,” the medical experts said.
They also said that Assisted Suicide is not compatible with good medical care.