The UK's most senior family judge has hit out at the "shocking" practice of separating elderly couples against their wishes in care homes.
Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said he felt "personal outrage" that "people who may have been together for 30, 40 or maybe 50 years are separated in their final years", The Times reported.
In a speech in Stafford on Tuesday, Sir James told the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) that forcing apart pensioners was "absolutely shocking and a profound indictment of our society", according to the paper.
Sir James suggested such practices could prove fatal, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The newspaper said he told Adass members: "We do know that people die of a broken heart. I have read of cases where one person died and then the other dies a couple of days later. How long do people last if they are uprooted? A very short time."
He said when a person was "uprooted" and placed in a residential home it involved a "severance with place and people and things".
According to the Daily Telegraph, Sir James said: "You are actually putting someone in a regime which may not allow them to smoke, or a regime where for their own good they may be required or heavily persuaded to indulge in the kind of collective jollification which they would have loathed at home."