May 21, 2020

Column One: Years ago, he saved her. Then one day he helped his wife kill herself

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Several months later, the bill was blocked by Spain’s conservative parties and then held up by the ruling party’s inability to form a majority government. He handed her a glass of water with a straw, to see if she could swallow.“What do you think?” he asked.“Yes, I can do it,” she gurgled. “We would go to the coffee shops because marijuana helped ease María José’s pain.”As her health deteriorated in the 2000s, Hernández started remodeling the apartment. Part of Hernández couldn’t quite believe what was happening. He denies it. He can barely look at it now. Advertisement

“I will change the house only when euthanasia is decriminalized,” he said. And then, he would have to be alone. Advertisement

He scrambled to the room and found her encircled by empty prescription bottles, unconscious but still breathing. He had developed an excruciating hernia, which he aggravated the more he cared for her. He also doubted his motives.Death can be instantaneous, one unknowing step or traffic accident away. Carrasco swallowed. Advertisement

Neither did the doctors. Alone.Bremner is a special correspondent. She couldn’t help him

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A nurse watched her father die of coronavirus in her hospital. “She was on high doses of morphine and fentanyl, and often the withdrawals from these drugs were worse than the problems caused by the disease itself,” Hernández said. Her body was limp, her face sunken, and her mouth sagged into a scowl. But soon she would be gone, and he would be alone. “We liked to go to the Netherlands,” he said. Carrasco did not want to end her suffering only to propagate his. “All my hair fell out from the stress,” he said.Then in 1989, the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord that causes the body’s immune system to attack its nerve fibers.There is no cure, and Carrasco knew it would only get worse. Or for his? They were for each other. But this — this was different. No, she didn’t. “I want to feel your suffering slip away. I think so….”::
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By 2010, Hernández had to take early retirement. Would he become a pariah? He was struggling. Advertisement

Hernández knew that what he was about to do probably meant prison. He was desperate. Column One: Years ago, he saved her. Was he obligating Carrasco to stay alive?He supposed that she had these debates too. But did she have enough to keep on going? Everything was about to end, and everything was about to begin. Then they would record the assisted suicide, and the moments before and after. He knew that his face would appear in every one of his country’s newspapers. Maybe that’s why she held on? They had never had children because they did not want someone between them. After all, Hernández and Carrasco had planned it this way. He read to her before she went to sleep, and he bought hundreds of films they watched together. “I only did it to help our cause,” he said. “This was back in the ‘80s in Spain, and we had no idea what was going on,” Hernández said. In those moments, she must have known what she meant to him. He shouted again. World & Nation

This small Texas hospital is finding ways to save COVID-19 patients

World & Nation

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A Houston hospital isn’t just battling the coronavirus. Advertisement

Column One

A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times. Advertisement

::Hernández came from a poor family in Madrid’s Alcala de Henares suburb — his father was a factory worker, his mother a homemaker. She couldn’t help him

Less than a month after returning from a ski trip to Idaho, Charles “Chuck” Jackson was admitted to his daughter’s hospital and died of COVID-19. “I wasn’t even there,” he said.Carrasco had been born into a family of lawyers. She spoke languages, read literature and loved to paint and play the piano.When Carrasco and Hernández met at a theater workshop in the ‘80s, both were attracted to each other’s differences: Carrasco liked that he was tough and streetwise, Hernández liked that she was whimsical and erudite. He could hear its presence in his wife’s groans, in the squeak of her wheelchair, in the rattle of her pills.Sometimes it made Hernández feel guilty. Back and forth, a wearisome rally in his head, for three decades. Print

MADRID — 

“Are you sure you want to die?”Ángel Hernández stared at his wife through clear glasses. He had been to prison before, he told her, and during the dictatorship, no less. California

A nurse watched her father die of coronavirus in her hospital. Was he selfish?Carrasco had her own fears, not of death but of what her husband would face after her suicide. They married in 1988, and soon, Hernández noticed things that he didn’t want to see. Death lurked — it was a chronic weight on his everyday thoughts. And while some would support him, some would rather see him burn in hell.There was a time when Hernández tried to show Carrasco that life was worth living. “She was from the bourgeoisie,” Hernández said. He cooked, cleaned and shopped. Advertisement

“Give me your hand,” Hernández murmured. Advertisement

The couple had talked about euthanasia over the years, but it was still illegal in Spain, and, as such, seemed a comforting impossibility to Hernández. Small things at first: the missed note on the piano, the errant brushstroke on one of her paintings, and a squiggle too many in her signature. The living room is still full of books and paintings, many painted by her. “We had solidarity, which went beyond infatuation and sex,” he said. They watched avant-garde films, read great works and traveled. Nothing would prepare him for the void she would leave, but he could no longer watch her suffer, he could no longer justify what he came to believe was just his greed. “Did she have a phenomenal life? “Videos that were designed to show María José’s suffering,” Hernández lawyer would later tell the press.The reality was this: The next day, Hernández would wake up and help his wife die. It was then early 2019, and Hernández knew he would have to take matters into his own hands so the couple could make a point.The plan was to record her daily suffering and show the world what it was to live with the burden of this disease. His face was pallid, haggard, his lip quivering.María José Carrasco, 61, and eight years his junior, drooped in a squeaky red armchair. He knew she was caught between her love for him and her own suffering. He would end her suffering, but he would also open up an abysmal absence.But personal concerns had to cede to higher objectives. Don’t worry; you will be asleep soon.”In the hours after Carrasco died, Hernández handed himself in to the police and admitted he had aided his wife’s death. Advertisement

Hernández remembers they would talk late into the night about anything and everything. Hernández said he would be willing to help her if necessary. She grimaced. It faces patients who, convinced they’re not infected, leave before treatment is finished. She dropped out of university and went to live in an artist’s commune in New York. He often thought he was selfish. Advertisement

On April 3, 2019, Hernández woke up Carrasco as he always did. Spain’s governing party had presented a bill to decriminalize euthanasia, and polls showed an overwhelming majority of Spaniards favored legalizing “la muerte digna.”
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But, just as assisted suicide seemed possible, it wasn’t. He was released on bail the next day.After Hernández shared videos of his wife to the press, he became one of 2019’s biggest news stories, splashed across broadsheets and tabloids, as he had predicted. But in 2015, when Carrasco asked him to acquire some sodium pentobarbital, “to have just in case,” he knew that even the law might not be enough to deter his wife’s desires.In the following years, Carrasco’s condition worsened. She had to quit work as a court clerk. In late 2018, Carrasco lost the use of her hands. For him. The outside world, which had once so enchanted her, began to taunt her with its possibilities.One day, in 1996, Hernández returned late from his job as a technician at the Spanish parliament, where he recorded debates and hearings. Advertisement

“Yes.”“OK,” he sighed. Uneasy and in pain. Nothing. Carrasco went from test to test, hospital to hospital. Around 9:30 he turned on the camcorder.“María José, the moment has arrived,” Hernández said, his voice shaky. “She worried about me until the end,” he said.But Hernández was resolute. He installed handrails on the walls so Carrasco could drag herself to the kitchen and refitted the bathroom to make it easier for her to wash up. She had endured multiple sclerosis for 30 years, and it was ravaging her body.“Would you like it if we do it tomorrow?” Hernández said, glancing into the camera recording it all. She could barely see, barely hear; sometimes, she couldn’t swallow or talk.It was around this time that the couple gave an interview to El Pais, in which Carrasco told the broadsheet that she was ready to die. The charge was terrorism, though the action was breaking windows at a bank. She was desperate. “I dragged her to the bathroom and shoved my fingers down her throat,” he said. But Carrasco wasn’t angry; she was nervous, uneasy even. His own health began deteriorating. But as years passed, he began to question everything he had thought was kindness, everything he thought was generous.Was he trying to keep her alive for her sake? Advertisement

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Hernandez asked again.“Yes.”“OK.”Hernandez handed her another cup, this time with sodium pentobarbital. He was rebellious and had spent the years in prison during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Every Saturday, they would travel to villages outside Madrid to lunch and enjoy nature.They traveled further afield too. For months, they had given press interviews and shot videos showing Carrasco’s day-to-day life. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing more to be said.”“No,” she responded. More stories

That afternoon, on April 2, 2019, as Hernández peered into his wife’s sunken eyes in the couple’s cramped living room on the outskirts of Madrid, he was still torn. “The sooner, the better.”Silence followed the recording. This was something he had suppressed, considered, accepted and then suppressed again. Hernández would show his face despite the risk of prosecution.It was only with the last of those points that there was an issue. He woke Carrasco up, he washed her, changed her diaper, applied her creams. She vomited a mush of pills.When Carrasco awoke, Hernández told her that though he could not stop her from taking her life, he “would do everything to prove that she had a reason to keep on living.”
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In the following years, he reduced his hours at work. In a matter of months, she was losing her footing on her way to the kitchen or seeing double while watching TV.It was as confusing as it was terrifying. Then one day he helped his wife kill herself

By Matthew Bremner

May 21, 20204 AM

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Copy Link URLCopied! What was more, he said, he didn’t believe in God, or heaven; he believed in life, and that it be lived with dignity. He would become a momentary lament over breakfast or a boozy debate at a bar. He showered her, dried her, changed her diaper and took her back to the bed. This year, Spain is consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still faces domestic abuse charges.Yet, for as much as his life has changed outside his house, inside, nothing has. Prison? The emergency services wouldn’t arrive fast enough, he thought. The armchair where she used to sit lies empty. Propped up in her wheelchair, she appeared bound by an invisible straitjacket. Carrasco smiled. She grew embarrassed; she stopped seeing friends, she stopped going out. “That’s when my grief will end.” Until then, he says, he will live uneasily with her absence. “She would normally wait up for me,” he said. She found her own path. Yes, she had tried to kill herself, but they had spent regular times together, good times, when death’s grip had loosened. He had to act. It was around midnight, and Hernández called out to his wife when he entered the apartment. As he dragged her from the bed, her limp body thudded to the floor. But this time there was no reply.