Married for 68 years and parents-of-three, Charlie and Francie Emerick, died together in bed in April 2017.
Francie, 88, had spent years battling heart disease and had suffered several heart attacks, and her husband Charlie, 87, also suffered from heart disease as well as Parkinson’s and prostate cancer.
After two doctors separately determined that both Francie and Charlie had fewer than six months to live, the couple decided to end their lives using medication legal under the Death with Dignity Act, an Oregon state law that allows terminally ill adults to request a medical death.
Now, the couple’s three adult daughters have shared a documentary that captures their parents final moments on April 20, 2017, in which they reminisced with family, smiled at each other, and held hands before ingesting the drugs that ultimately ended their lives.
Francie died within 15 minutes of swallowing the pill, while Charlie died an hour later.
Their eldest daughter, Jerilyn Marler, remembers her parents’ bond fondly.
“They were each other‘s best friend,” Marler said in an interview with UK’s Daily Mail. “In their last years, dad was mom’s eyes and mom was dad’s ears. It was natural for them to want to die together.”
“Their choice was much easier for me than to see them suffer through their final months,” she added.
Francie and Charlie met in 1947 during their freshman year in York College and got married during their senior year.
Nine months later, their first daughter Jerilyn was born.
Charlie served as a Navy doctor in San Diego, California, and Bremerton, Washington from 1956 to 1963, while Francie was a homemaker.
In 1964, their family moved to Central India, where Charlie set up an ear, nose and throat (ENT) department in a local hospital and Francie worked in the public relations and marketing department for the medical institution.
When they moved back to the US in 1972, their father served as chief of ENT at Kaiser Permanente in Portland until he retired in 1990.
Francie and Charlie, who got married in 1951, became members of the now-defunct organization The Hemlock Society, an American right-to-die and assisted suicide advocacy organization that ended in 2003, in the 1980’s.
In 1997, Oregon became the first state to legalize medical aid-in-dying when they passed the Death With Dignity Act.
According to Jerilyn, her parents always supported the movement.
“They never wanted to have a lingering, painful, agonizing death,” she said.
In the documentary Living & Dying: A Love Story, Francie relayed to her daughter that she wanted death with dignity after Charlie’s health was declining and he was told he had six months to live.
Francie began seeking out consultations from doctors to see if she was eligible to use the Death with Dignity Act after Charlie was given six months to live in early 2017.
Two doctors told her she also had about six months to live as well.
In the documentary, Francie, who had a weakened heart, acknowledged that she could have survived longer than her husband, but said she didn’t want to.
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