On Sunday, an elderly couple in Shanghai set a fire in their bedroom and burnt themselves to death, leaving neighbors distraught and netizens calling for a change in China’s laws against assisted suicide.
Mr. and Mrs. Zhu were both 85 years old. They lived together in a small house in Jinshan District. Before setting their home ablaze, they left a thank-you note posted to their neighbor’s door saying that they were grateful for all their help, but it was “time to go.”
According to NetEase, neighbors, firefighters and police arrived on the scene quickly, but were unable to rescue the couple. They had locked both of the house’s doors.
One neighbor was able to break in first, but was unable to put out the fires with his extinguisher and had to wait for firefighters to help. Afterward, he saw the bodies of the elderly couple.
“They were lying together, hand in hand,” he said.
The two had met in their mid-50s. Mrs. Zhu had become paralyzed several years ago and was unable to leave her bed. They were close with their family and neighbors. Friends had noticed some curious behavior in the days leading up to their suicide.
One neighbor said that the couple had asked her husband to pick up some kitchenware from them. Another friend noticed a table covered with paper money and other offerings. The husband said that he was praying for his wife’s health.
The tragic story has led many netizens to ask for a change in China’s assisted suicide laws. Currently, euthanasia is illegal in China.
“Nobody should have to die like that, something needs to change,” commented one netizen from Jiangsu.
In 2013, a survey of 3,400 Chinese people found that 70% had no objection to assisted suicide. Back in 2011, an elderly Jiangxi farmer was sentenced to two years in prison for helping his friend commit suicide. The case stirred up this very same issue in a debate that likely won’t die any time soon.
– Do not leave the person alone
– Remove any sharp objects, alcohol, drugs or firearms that could be used in a suicide attempt
– Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional
– Call the following hotlines for help: Lifeline Shanghai: 021-6279-8990 (English speakers; 10am – 10pm daily); HopeLine: 4001619995 (Chinese speakers; 24/7 toll-free access)
[Images via NetEase]