Man Reveals He Assisted Parents' Suicides 10 Years Ago

Attorney writes about helping his ill parents commit suicide 10 years ago.

ByABC News via logo
February 4, 2009, 7:20 AM

Jan. 4, 2009 — -- For attorney and author John West, his parents were lifelong sources of comfort, wisdom and pride.

But West has been keeping a 10-year-old secret about his parents from everyone, including his two sisters, which he is revealing for the first time in a memoir called "The Last Goodnights."

West helped his terminally ill parents commit suicide, a crime in the state of California, where the deaths took place. In revealing his actions, West acknowledges he could face prosecution.

"I'm hopeful that that won't occur, but there is the possibility," West said in an interview that aired on "Good Morning America" today. "The statute of limitations for assisted suicide has run [out] but the prosecutors can charge you with just about anything. There is no statute of limitation for murder, for manslaughter, probably certain drug offenses."

West said that helping his parents to die was something he had to do out of love and, if given the choice, he'd do it again.

"I really didn't have sleepless nights over it because to me, it seemed right," he said. "It was the right thing to do. It was what my parents wanted."

His father, Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, was a world-renowned psychiatrist with expertise in brainwashing and cult activities who examined famous patients like Lee Harvey Oswald and Patricia Hearst. His mother, Kathryn West, was a respected psychologist. Friends called them pillars of the community.

"They were full of fun, of life, of joie de vivre," longtime family friend Walter Seltzer said.

Though his parents had been active for most of West's life, their health deteriorated dramatically in the 1990s.

In 1998, Jolly West was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. Kathryn West, meanwhile, learned she had Alzheimer's disease.

Jolly West was the first to approach his son about "the plan" -- he wanted to end his life.

John West agreed to assemble a deadly cocktail of pills that he helped his father, who was 74, take on the evening of Jan. 2, 1999.

By morning, Jolly West was dead, his death attributed by everyone except John West to cancer.