Twitter | @JoyMunns

Final Photo Of Elderly Couple Goes Viral After Wife Is Charged With Mercy Killing

Paddy Clarke 11 Nov 2019

A photo of one elderly couple following the pair's attempted suicide has gone viral, and has sparked up a passionate debate about assisted suicide, in particular in the U.K.

The couple in the photo had taken an overdose of medication.

Unsplash | Laurynas Mereckas

The photo was tweeted by the couple's daughter, Joy Munns, and has since garnered a massive amount of coverage across social media, receiving hundreds of retweets and likes.

The image has sparked a lot of debate about the topic of assisted suicide.

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Ms Munn's parents are Mavis and Dennis Eccleston.

Twitter | Joy Munns

The photo shows 80-year-old Mavis Eccleston and her 81-year-old husband Dennis holding hands across hospital beds following the overdose that the pair took.

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Mavis Eccleston managed to survive the overdose.

Instagram | torbay_emergency_response

Ms. Eccleston provided her husband, who was in the late stages of bowel cancer, with medication that would be enough to kill him as a mercy killing after he reportedly asked to die.

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Ms. Eccleston also took a similar dose and lay down on the couch by her husband.

Reddit | an-angry-bee

Before she did this, Mr. Eccleston had kissed her hand and said a final, "Goodnight darling," The Guardian reported.

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Ms. Eccleston was rushed to hospital and given an antidote for the medication, causing her to survive.

Instagram | mizellhannah

The couple had been married for over 60 years, and as her husband died as a result of the overdose and his late-stage cancer, the hospital staff pulled their beds together so that they could spend their final moments holding hands.

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The moving photo of this shown above was captured by the couple's daughter.

Reddit | ScarletBaron0105

Following the death of her husband, however, Ms. Eccleston was charged with his murder.

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After a long trial, Ms. Eccleston was ultimately cleared of charges.

Inatagram | pc.skinner

The prosecution had tried to claim that Mr. Eccleston had not been aware that the drugs his wife was giving him would kill him.

However, Ms. Eccleston passionately denied these claims and explained that he had asked her to help him die.

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She also claimed that he had expressed wishes to go to Switzerland, where he would be able to end his own life.

Reddit | Konstantin_G_Fahr

It took the jury four hours to decide on a verdict of not guilty.

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Ms. Eccleston had reportedly even left a suicide note, explaining the situation to her children.

Unsplash | Aaron Burden

The jurors heard the note read aloud, which said: "We Mavis and Dennis Eccleston being of sound mind have decided to end our lives because of ill-health and harassment day in and day out," according to Yahoo News.

Since Ms. Eccleston's acquittal, Ms. Munns used the photo to begin advocating for reform to the UK's assisted dying laws.

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Ms. Munns has since appeared on major news outlets spreading awareness of this important issue.

No one should have to go through what this family has gone through; and yet, the U.K. still imposes strict laws against assisted suicide.

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Ms. Munns explained the situation through her late father's perspective.

Reddit | Freaktography

Speaking to The Guardian, she said:

"Our dad would have been devastated at the thought of his beloved wife waiting to find out if, at the age of 80, she would face a life sentence in prison simply for respecting his wishes [...]

"We believe there must be a change in the law so that dying people aren’t forced to suffer, to make plans in secret or ask loved ones to risk prosecution by helping them."

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Many organizations and public figures have backed the need for law reform in regards to assisted dying.

Twitter | Dignity In Dying

Celebrities such as Patrick Stewart, and organisations such as Dignity In Dying UK, have spoken out publicly about the importance of changing the U.K.'s laws, claiming that the current laws are archaic and (in Dignity In Dying CEO Sarah Wootton's words) "still unduly influenced by religious dogma."

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Ms. Wootton has also been quoted as saying, "Compassion should not be a crime".

Twitter | Sarah Wootton

Talking again to The Guardian in relation to Dennis and Mavis's case, Ms. Wootton explained:

"[Dennis] simply wanted to die on his own terms rather than endure a protracted, painful death, but because of the UK's outdated laws on assisted dying, Dennis felt his only option was to end his own life behind closed doors."

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She went on to discuss Mrs. Eccleston's role in the affair.

Reddit | WillysNozzle

As she said, "Mavis, his devoted wife, felt she had to respect his wishes, but then faced the prospect of life imprisonment simply for acting out of love. Compassion should not be a crime, but under the UK’s broken laws, it is."

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It is unclear whether the issues of assisted suicide will play heavily in the upcoming British election.

Twitter | Joy Munns

With the U.K. barrelling toward another general election as its political situation seems to go from bad to worse, the issue of assisted suicide has been floated by a few MPs but has been largely drowned out by the cataclysmic foghorn of misery that is the Brexit debate.

Hopefully, MPs in Britain will realize the importance that this issue holds for the British public. However, with the chaos that is Brexit, it may be a while before legal reform in this area gets the attention it deserves.

h/t: The Guardian & Yahoo News

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