An elderly Washington couple were found dead in what police are calling a murder-suicide, and inside their home was a note saying that they were overwhelmed by medical bills and unable to pay for their care.
The tragic incident happened in Ferndale, a town close to 100 miles north of Seattle near the border with Canada. As NBC News reported, a 77-year-old man had called 911 on Wednesday morning to say that he planned to commit suicide. When deputies from the Whatcom County Sheriffs Office arrived, they set up outside and a crisis negotiator tried to make contact with the couple by phone and loudspeaker for close to an hour.
The officers then went inside, where they found the man and his 76-year-old wife dead from gunshot wounds. They said the case is being investigated as a murder-suicide.
Police believe that the couple’s medical costs were the motivating factor in the murder-suicide.
“Several notes were left citing severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care,” read a statement from the sheriff’s department.
Police have not released the names of the deceased.
This is not the first time that overwhelming medical bills have been a factor in a tragic suicide. In 2017, a Manhattan couple jumped to their deaths from a high-rise apartment, citing crippling debt that they had faced, Complex reported. While initial reports focused on their medical debt, it was later revealed that the couple was in a larger “financial spiral” owing tens of thousands of dollars.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 9, 2019
The murder-suicide of the Washington couple has generated national attention and sparked new debate over America’s medical system. As The Commonwealth Fund found in a study, a large number of Americans are struggling to pay medical bills or have outstanding medical debt.
“A recent survey from The Commonwealth Fund finds that many people are struggling to pay their medical bills and have accumulated medical debt over time,” the report noted. “In fact, 41 percent of working-age Americans—or 72 million people—have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt, up from 34 percent in 2005. If you add in the 7 million elderly adults who are also dealing with these issues, a total of 79 million Americans have medical bill or debt problems.”
The need for reform of the American medical and insurance systems has taken center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign, with many Democratic candidates promising to institute a Medicare for All system while Donald Trump and Republicans have said they will continue to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a more cost-efficient system.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.