Sickly 92-year-old SA woman would rather die than be deported from the UK

Johannesburg – A sickly 92-year-old South African woman, who got a brief respite from deportation from the UK this week, feels that she would be better off dead than leave her daughter, according to a psychiatric report. 

The UK's Home Office is expected to give its decision soon on whether Myrtle Cothill will be deported to South Africa. 

Cothill's barrister Jan Doerfel tweeted that the decision would be delivered early next week. 

Cothill was meant to have been deported to South Africa earlier in the week. 

"Following a wave of overwhelming public and media support for which we are immeasurably grateful, Myrtle's removal directions were cancelled ... pending receipt of further evidence," Doerfel said. 

The evidence was a report from psychiatrist Dr Benjamin Robinson. 

Doerfel posted excerpts from Robinson's report on Twitter.

Robinson said Cothill suffers from clinical depression and increased anxiety since she learnt she could be forced to leave her daughter, who takes care of her.

"He also noted that Mrs Cothill 'has begun to think she would be better off dead, but has not made plans to kill herself because she is a religious person and this would go against God's will'," Doerfel said, quoting Robinson's report.  

Robinson said if Cothill was deported, there was a high chance that she would die within three months.  

Cothill has a physical dependency on her daughter for care, food and medication among other things, he said. 

Online petition

"My prognosis should this process actually occur is as follows: Mrs Cothill's mental state would rapidly decline and this would be irreversible due to the ineffectiveness of antidepressants in those severely depressed in her age group," Robinson said in the report. 

Several days ago, Doerfel launched an online petition to call on the UK to grant Cothill leave to remain in the country.

Cothill's daughter Mary Wills said the deportation would "tear strips out of our hearts and probably would kill my mother".

Cothill has no family in South Africa to care for her.

She has been living with her 66-year-old daughter since she arrived in the UK in February 2014.

In the petition, Doerfel said Cothill suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and macular degeneration, which causes the loss of sight.

Cothill cannot walk unaided, has a chronic cough, poor vision, has difficulty hearing and is experiencing increasing confusion, he said.

Doerfel said Wills and her husband David, who is also British, cannot move to South Africa to look after Cothill because they have no right to live in the country.

David Wills also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s disease, leaving him unable to travel as both diseases affect his mobility and breathing.

"Both David Wills’ and Cothill’s medical conditions are degenerative and likely to deteriorate further in the future," Doerfel said.

He said the Home Office initially refused to allow Cothill to remain in the UK and the courts did not believe they could overturn the office's decision.

He said the UK introduced an immigration rule in 2012 on adult-dependant relatives which made it "almost impossible" for British citizens to bring their elderly parents to live with them during their "declining years".

In a letter addressed to the Home Office, Doerfel asked that Cothill's leave to remain in the UK be granted and that the immigration rule be amended to allow for the previous rule on family reunion to be put back in place.

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