A loving Karrinyup couple with major health problems made a pact to die together because they could not bear one to survive the other's death and be forced into a nursing home, according to right-to-die campaigners.

Robert and Helen Allen's two sons found their mother dead and their father ill yesterday morning after the married couple tried to take their own lives in their Dempster Road home.

The men called paramedics about 9am and Mr Allen, 75, was rushed to hospital where he was in a stable condition last night.

Right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke said the Allens had been members of his euthanasia group Exit International for more than five years.

News of the incident distressed Dr Nitschke and Carol, the co-ordinator of the group's WA chapter, because the Allens had not achieved the peaceful death together they had planned.

Carol, who did not want her surname revealed, said the couple had been in a terrible way.

"She had rapidly progressing motor neurone disease and he, although he appeared quite healthy, had short-term memory loss," she said.

"She knew that if she died, he would have to be cared for in a nursing home because he could not be left alone. They were definitely going to do it together and had planned it well."

Major crime squad detectives said the woman's death was not suspicious. They would not say how she died. The couple's sons and a daughter-in-law had found their parents after arriving for a pre-arranged visit.

Dr Nitschke and Carol said the Allens had been to several Exit International meetings and had a copy of the Peaceful Pill Handbook, which detailed methods for voluntary euthanasia.

They believe the Allens had told their sons of their plans.

Carol said the couple had been devoted to each other. When Mrs Allen struggled to speak, her husband would try to finish her sentences. "He knew what she wanted to say but then he wouldn't be able to remember what he wanted to say," she said.

She said politicians were callous not to allow people the choice to end their lives.

"We have a magnificent medical system and we can cure lots of things but we cannot cure old age," she said. "Voluntary euthanasia is never going to be made compulsory but if people have a ghastly illness . . . why are we making them stay alive when we could give them the choice."

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The West Australian

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