By Pat Anson, Editor
A former California lawmaker has been charged with helping his wife -- who suffered from chronic back pain -- commit suicide last year.
Steven Clute allegedly provided his wife Pamela with a handgun so she could kill herself. He is charged with felony aiding a suicide and will be arraigned tomorrow. Medically assisted suicide is legal in California for terminally ill patients, but suicide by firearm is not permitted.
Pamela Clute was 66 when she killed herself on the morning of August 21, 2016 at the couple’s home in Palm Desert. According to the Desert Sun, her husband found his wife with a gunshot wound and called 911, telling the dispatcher she suffered from severe pain and wanted to end her life.
"Steven said he had given Pamela the revolver as an option to end the pain she was going through based on a previous discussion they had about using the revolver as an option," an arrest declaration released Monday said.
It is not clear what new evidence emerged since the suicide or why the Riverside County District Attorney waited over a year to file charges.
Friends and acquaintances of the Clutes said there were rumors of a suicide but didn’t know the cause of Pamela’s death until recently, according to The Press Enterprise. The autopsy report now says she died from a gunshot wound.
Pamela Clute was a well-known math professor at the University of California, Riverside. Her husband is a former Navy pilot who served in the California state assembly from 1982 to 1992. The couple had been married for 40 years.
Defense lawyer Virginia Blumenthal told the Associated Press that Clute, who is 69, would plead not guilty at his arraignment.
"You have to understand that everyone around here knows how much in love he was with her," said Blumenthal, who was friends with the Clutes. "They were always together. They were very much in love with each other."
The case is similar to the sad story of Jay Lawrence, a chronic pain sufferer who committed suicide earlier this year with the help of his wife Meredith after his opioid pain medication was cutback.
“I bought the gun that Jay used -- and yes, we talked about the ramifications of that action,” Meredith Lawrence wrote in a PNN guest column. “We went to the park where we had renewed our vows in 2015. We talked in the car for a while, and then we sat in the same place we had cut our wedding cake. I was holding his hand when he pulled the trigger.”
Meredith was arrested and charged under Tennessee’s assisted suicide law. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless endangerment and is currently on probation.
“I know Jay wanted me to put his story out there. I know he wanted people to know what it was like to live with the pain he lived with daily. When the doctor took away Jay’s medications, they took away his quality of life. That was what led to his decision,” Meredith wrote.
“Something has to be done to wake up the doctors, insurers and regulators to make them see pain patients as real people. People with husbands, wives and children that love them.”