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End-of-life doctor, wife found dead at Cross Lanes home

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A local doctor known for his views on end-of-life care and his wife were found dead in their Cross Lanes home of an apparent murder-suicide.  Deputies went to the couple's Flairwood Drive home, which is off Fire Creek Drive in a rural area near Cross Lanes, about 11:30 a.m. Monday.

A neighbor had gone to check on the couple and called 911, said Cpl. Brian Humphreys, spokesman for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies had not released the names of those involved, but neighbors identified the couple as Dr. Bruce Foster and his wife, Marlise. Foster was a practicing doctor at Thomas Memorial Hospital and served as chairman of the hospital's ethics and institutional review board.

Both were dead of apparent gunshot wounds.

Workers at Foster's office grew worried when he didn't come in to work Monday morning.

They went to the home and when there was no response, they found the doctor's neighbor, John Walker, 38.

Walker then entered the house, found the couple dead and called the police.

"They were really good people," Walker said. "Nice and genuine people. He was really intelligent and she was just very nice."

Walker had lived across the street from the couple, who were both in their 60s, for about eight years. He said he saw them outside on occasion and they were always friendly.

Walker described the scene inside the home as "heartbreaking" but said there was no sign of violence. The two were lying together and the doctor had his arm around his wife.

"They were a good couple," he said. "You could tell they really cared about each other. We'd see them lying side by side holding hands by the pool on pretty days."  

He said Marlise had been very ill and he hadn't seen her outside in a while. Walker said the couple didn't have any children and enjoyed traveling.

He said he couldn't imagine Dr. Foster owning a gun.

He said the couple was well off but lived modestly. The doctor was an engineer before opening his practice. Walker said many residents in the area were patients of Foster.

Dr. Foster was a native of Wilmington, Del., and moved to West Virginia after medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He worked for a time at Union Carbide but retired when the plant began downsizing and opened a family practice at Thomas.

He was a supporter of living wills and medical power of attorney documents, according to an online biography on Zoom Info, a business profile site. He also authored a book titled "Death and Dying, or Can You Love Me Enough to Let Me Go?"

Known for his lectures on end-of-life care, he often referred to death as "graduation," according to the online biography.

"We have to start thinking that it's not necessarily the end, that it may be the beginning of something," he told the Gazette in a 2004 interview.

He also served as the director of palliative care services and was the medical adviser for the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life. He spoke frequently at seminars, continuing educational programs and on local radio shows.

The investigation is ongoing.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.


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