Siblings suicide together in Swiss clinic five months later than original death pact due to pandemic

In a scene that could have been ripped from the 1973 dystopian film, Soylent Green, two Arizona sisters — one a doctor, the other a nurse — died together at a Swiss assisted suicide clinic last month, after postponing their death pact for five months due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Dr. Lila Ammouri, 54, and her younger sister, nurse Susan Frazier, 49, reached out in 2019 to Exit International, an international non-profit “voluntary assisted dying organization” with more than 30,000 online supporters, to become members and learn how they could end their lives together.

After some discussion with Exit International founder Dr. Philip Nitschke, it was decided that the siblings would travel to Switzerland to the Pegasos clinic, as Pegasos doesn’t require its clients to be terminally ill or even suffering from a life-limiting illness to opt-out of living. The trip was scheduled for August 2021, but the Delta variant got in the way, forcing the sisters to wait until February to carry out their plan.

And it wasn’t a cheap plan. According to Nitschke, the price of dying together topped $11,000 plus travel expenses per sister, the Daily Mail reported.

In a joint statement released by Exit International and Pegasos following the sisters’ deaths, the organizations said, “Although they had a number of health problems, [the sisters] were not terminally ill. They expressed a strong wish to die together.”

“They also realized that their desire to die together, when not terminally ill, could not be accommodated by any of the right to die legislative changes introduced into a number of U.S. states,” the statement added.

“The idea of two people dying together is not possible in the U.S., but the sisters made it very clear to us that they wanted to end their lives together,” Nitschke told the Daily Mail.

According to Nitschke, the siblings were given a psychiatric evaluation when they arrived in Basel, Switzerland, and were deemed fit to make their life-ending decisions.

Pegasos Director Reudi Habegger said in the joint statement, “Pegaso’s Swiss Association is committed to ensuring that adults capable of judgment can exercise their right to a self-determined, humane death. After careful clarifications and within the framework of the official rules, we respectfully accompany people with unbearable suffering on their last journey.”

While it isn’t uncommon for couples to choose assisted suicide when one is terminally ill, the case of Ammouri and Frazier is, Nitschke said, extremely rare.

“Exit has only seen one previous occasion when in 2017 in Gold Coast, Australia, mother Margaret Cummins, 78, and her daughters Wynette and Heather, aged 53 and 54, all decided to end their lives together,” Nitschke stated.

While the siblings may have left this world exactly as they’d hoped, as is often the case in suicides, a family member and the friends they left behind are grasping for some answers.

The women’s brother and only know living relative, New Yorker Cal Ammouri, 60, only learned of his little sisters’ deaths after reporters reached out to him earlier this week, and now he is demanding some answers.

“They were so secretive, especially with me,” Ammouri told the New York Post. “Can someone tell me what happened? Do people snap just like that?”

“It could be,” Ammouri added. “You wake up one day and you don’t feel like life is precious.”

While Ammouri had not seen his sisters in person in three decades, he said they did speak regularly on the phone, including just before they left for Switzerland. He told The Post that Lila had called him the day before her death on February 10, but she sounded normal.

Friends of the sisters were frantic after the sisters failed to return to Arizona and work on February 15.

On Feb. 10, the same day Cal spoke with Lila, colleagues and friends of the duo began receiving odd text messages with uncharacteristic misspellings, leading some among them to speculate the sisters may have been kidnapped.

“Some of the text communications they had, we are certain they were not from them,” said longtime friend Dr. David Biglari. “They were most likely fabricated with someone else.”

Selinda Staggers, who worked remotely with Lila Ammouri as a medical assistant, found the news of the doctor’s death jaw-dropping.

“She was the nicest, sweetest person,” Staggers told The Post. “Always asked me about myself. She was very normal, very kind, very professional.”

Neither Staggers nor brother Ammouri detected any signs of depression.

“Why would you leave your jobs, your home, your loved ones, just abandon everything,” Ammouri asked. “I just want some answers.”


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