Analysis

Family threatens to sue assisted suicide group for helping another American woman to die

assisted suicide, euthanasia

Barely a week after it was discovered that a pair of sisters from Arizona underwent assisted suicide at Pegasos in Switzerland, the family of another American woman killed has come forward demanding justice.

Forty-year-old Krista Atkins from Massachusetts was allegedly physically healthy but suffered from “severe mental illness,” according to the Independent. She paid $15,000 to voluntary assisted dying organization Pegasos, according to Exit International director Philip Nitschke, and claimed her family was “actively hostile” to her goal to kill herself. “She seemed to be in a battle with the family,” Nitschke said.

Joshua Atkins, Atkins’ brother, an associate professor of anaesthesiology and critical care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote to Pegasos on June 6, 2020, just days before Atkins was killed. “I also believe, limited European case law to the contrary, that (voluntary assisted dying) in this instance is likely unlawful given the diagnoses she carries,” his letter read. “I need you to understand that should Krista die in your care I shall feel compelled to use the extensive resources and networks at my disposal to fully investigate the circumstance of her death.”

READ: Oregon expands assisted suicide to allow death tourism, despite troubling stats

Atkins left a note before her death, contradicting her brother’s claims. She claims to have undergone an “extensive evaluation” before receiving approval to die. Yet her evaluation was conducted by those working for Pegasos, which had a financial incentive to ensure she went through with her planned death.

Nitschke said that Atkins’ reportedly severe mental illness was irrelevant. “It’s not really whether she had a mental illness or not. The fundamental question to ask in Switzerland is whether she had mental capacity,” he said. “I don’t think they were denying those background mental issues, but she was certainly in a position to give informed consent.”

The Daily Beast reported that bank records show an additional $2,500 payment to Flemming Schollaart, founder of the Right to Die Society in Denmark. Schollaart drove from Denmark to the airport in Zurich to meet Atkins and then served as her witness for her death, as required by Pegasos. The Daily Beast also confirmed that Atkins passed all of Pegasos’ requirements to die, and she paid her fee in full — which seemingly was the most important thing.

“While I understand Pegasos’ service may seem altruistic, I believe their vetting process is too loose and needs to be tightened, especially in cases involving those suffering from mental illness,” family members told the Daily Beast in a statement. “While Krista may have mentioned her depression to Ruedi in her application, she did not fully disclose to Pegasos the severity of her mental illness diagnosis which resulted in her hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital in early 2020.”

Family members are now suing Pegasos over Atkins’ death.

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