A man who tried to give his wife, who is living with Alzheimer’s disease, an overdose to end her life won’t go to jail.
Joseph Sugar gave himself and his wife, Heather, an overdose of insulin in December last year, just days before they were due to be separated into different care facilities.
Mrs Sugar had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. The couple later moved into an aged care facility in Melbourne’s east together. Mrs Sugar’s condition deteriorated until she could no longer recognise her family or wash and dress herself.
In December 2018, the couple, married for more than 50 years, were due to be separated so Mrs Sugar could live in a secure dementia ward.
But two days before that, Mr Sugar gave them both an overdose of the insulin used to treat his diabetes.
“I would prefer to end this peacefully,” he wrote in a letter to his adult son and daughter.
Both he and Mrs Sugar survived. After initially telling paramedics, family and police that Mrs Sugar had given herself the dose of insulin, Mr Sugar was charged with attempted murder.
He was convicted in Victoria’s Supreme Court on Monday after pleading guilty, but Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said he would serve no jail time if he was of good behaviour for two years.
“A sentence may be both just and merciful,” she said.
The couple’s children Audrey and David told the court they were immensely sad that Mr Sugar thought his actions were his only option.
“They describe Heather’s fear of losing her mind, like her parents had, and how she had often expressed the wish that she wanted to be ‘put out of her misery’ if she ended up like them,” Hollingworth said.
Mrs Sugar now lives in a high care unit. Mr Sugar has only limited visiting rights, which the judge said he finds extremely distressing.
The family say they now want to spend the time they have left together.
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