Right-to-die advocate, wife found dead at Port Charlotte healthcare facility in murder-suicide

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – A right-to-die advocate and his wife were found dead inside a healthcare facility early Tuesday morning in what investigators believe is a murder-suicide, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said.

Frank D. Kavanaugh, 81, and Barbara A. Kavanaugh, 88, both of 3306 Antigua Dr. in Punta Gorda, were found dead at about 1:17 a.m. inside a patient room at the Solaris Healthcare facility on Kings Highway in Port Charlotte, authorities said. They were found dead on the floor as someone was checking on a patient, investigators said.

Both died from gunshot wounds, authorities said.

Barbara Kavanaugh, who suffered from dementia, was admitted to Solaris earlier this year, said Gale Petrillo, who lived near the couple and admired how Frank Kavanaugh looked after his wife.

“He took absolutely phenomenal care for her,” she said. “He was there for her all the time, did everything, held her hand, and when we did see them walking, she would be a little stooped..and you know, you could just see he did really care.”
In a statement, the facility expressed their condolences and said there is no safety risk to residents or visitors to the nursing home.
Frank Kavanaugh is listed as an advisory board member for the Final Exit Network, a national organization that supports “the human right to a death with dignity.”

“We prefer to talk about aid to dying, rather than suicide,” he said in a 2011 article in Florida Weekly about the right-to-die. “Suicide implies something psychotic, a psychiatric condition. We are not here to help depressed people end their lives. We would be glad to help them to get treatment for their depression, but that is not what we are all about.”

Final Exit Network President Janis Landis described Frank Kavanaugh as someone who was committed to the right-to-die cause.

“We know nothing about the circumstances of his death but we have the highest regard and admiration for Frank,” she said. “He was a true gentlemen and devoted to causes to enhance human dignity and end needless suffering.”

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