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A story shared on multiple websites about a New York couple who committed suicide because they couldn’t afford to pay for health care is the result of news outlets that at first wrote the pair left a note saying as much, but later walked back the claim.
A July 28, 2017, post on NewsBreaksHere.com said a 53-year-old Manhattan chiropractor and his 50-year-old wife had jumped out of a high-rise window together, leaving a note that read, "We both have medical issues, we just can’t afford the health care."
The post noted that the suicide came "just a few hours after Senate Republicans tried to pass a bill that would repeal Obamacare," but that three members of the GOP had voted no, defeating the measure and keeping the Affordable Care Act in place.
Facebook users flagged the story as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social media site’s efforts to curb fake news.
There was a double suicide in midtown Manhattan on July 28, according to the New York Post. Glenn Scarpelli and Patricia Colant jumped from the ninth floor of the building where they worked, leaving behind a 19-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter.
The husband and wife also did leave a note, which read, "We had a wonderful life." But the couple was deeply in debt. The New York Post reported a lien showed they had owed more than $23,000 in federal taxes, and as of April 2015 they had more than $232,000 in debt. Scarpelli had faced legal action in 2013 for not paying back a $60,000 student loan.
The "financial spiral" in which they were trapped was too much for the couple, who elected to jump to their deaths, the Post reported. There was no mention of medical costs, or health insurance premiums, or anything else related to the Affordable Care Act.
So where did all these posts mentioning health care costs come from?
Initial versions of the New York Post’s story apparently cited a law enforcement source that said there was a second note at the scene. That note reportedly read, "We both have medical issues, we just can't afford the health care."
Later versions of the story corrected that assertion, saying a New York Police Department spokesman refuted that detail, and that there was no mention of health care costs in the couple’s sole suicide note.
Several posts on different websites cited a version of the story from the U.K.’s Daily Mail, which appears to have included the same details and also was updated. Neither story indicates what was changed in the text during the subsequent updates.
Using an uncorrected and incomplete version of the story led those posts to highlight the erroneous assertion that medical expenses, whether through high insurance premiums or procedural costs, drove the couple to suicide.
Bloggers said a New York physician and his wife jumped to their deaths because they "can’t afford" Obamacare.
Multiple blog posts said that the couple committed suicide because of unaffordable medical costs. That was based on initial reports about the note the pair left behind, and turned out not to be the case. News outlets later took out references to health care expenses when they updated their stories, but the flawed information remained in other posts.
We rate the statement False.
NewsBreaksHere.com, "NYC: PHYSICIAN and Wife Jump To Death…Leave Kids Behind Because They "Can’t Afford The Health Care" Only Hours After McCain, Murkowski, Collins and EVERY Democrat Voted To Keep Obamacare," July 30, 2017
New York Post, "Couple caught in ‘financial spiral’ jump to their deaths," July 28, 2017
Internet Archive, New York Post archived stories, accessed Aug. 1, 2017
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