Euthanasia News & Commentary Opinion State

Suicide ‘safeguard’ promises: a pathway to no restrictions

A recent news headline reads, “Police raid elderly Australians over euthanasia drugs”, as police attempt to do their job, yet only so far as curtailing illegal importation and use of intentionally lethal poisons intended to kill persons.

Suicide Safeguards Not Prosecuted

Australian Federal Police have identified hundreds of traffickers and seized around 15kg of euthanasia drugs between 2007 and 2014 (enough to kill between 1500 and 2500 people) but less than a handful of people have been convicted over an importation offence (whether a minor fine or a suspended sentence).

The federal penalty for importing suicidal poisons is up to 25 years imprisonment or fines of up to $850,000.

Pro-suicide campaigner and disgraced former doctor Philip Nitschke of WA has boasted about assisting patients to import illegal euthanasia drugs.

Eight followers of Nitschke’s pro-suicide group were recently visited by local police and were reportedly told, “We want you to hand over the drugs”.

Nitschke told AAP that police acted on intelligence shared by the Australian Federal Police, Interpol, and the US Department of Homeland Security. It appears email intercepts revealed up to 100 people may have ordered the illegal drugs.

He said that police “are claiming they are doing wellness checks, to make sure that you’re a person who isn’t in danger of ending your own life.”

The public could justly question whether police are willing to enforce the full extent of current laws.

Lawmakers may therefore justifiably judge that so-called euthanasia safeguards will not increase public safety in the hands of an ineffectual police force that has not prosecuted blatant importation offences.

Pro-Suicide Doctors Break Promises

Medical pro-suicide campaigners are boastfully breaking the law while telling the public to trust them that they will abide by future safeguards.

Assisting a suicide in WA carries a penalty of life imprisonment. Philip Nitschke, who was banned from practising medicine in 2014, has admitted to helping Nigel Brayley to commit suicide, a man whom newspapers later uncovered was under investigation over the suspicious death of his wife Lina.

In 1999, Nitschke advocated a suicide pill to be available to all who might want it, including children (The Advertiser, 12/8/1999 p3). In 2003, he told suicidal New Zealanders to ask vets to supply the drug to them illegally. He said, “If you happen to be the best friend of a vet, maybe things can be stitched up for you”, according to The Australian (14/4/2003 p3).

Dr Rodney Syme of Victoria was publicly filmed while assisting the suicide of Ray Godbold in 2015. The Victorian penalty for doctors for aiding a suicide was up to five years imprisonment, until the pro-euthanasia laws in July 2019. No Victorian doctor was charged with aiding and abetting a suicide in the previous 50 years.

No criminal charges have been laid on Dr Nitschke or Dr Syme.

Accordingly, lawmakers have the option of investigating police culture and appropriate penalties for certain crimes, instead of legalising assisted voluntary manslaughter by a medical practitioner.

Police, the Health Departments of Australia, and all of society have a direct interest in preventing suicide, which means promoting the dignity and wellness of people through effective palliative care in their closing stages of life.

Oversight Already Refused

The unreasonable plea for encouraging suicide by Dr Nitschke comes after the first terminally ill person has reportedly been granted permission to be assisted by doctors towards suicide under Victoria’s new laws.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services has refused to provide details about the person’s age, illness and any other practical oversight regarding the request.

The Department will not publish a list of doctors who support assisted suicide, further curtailing any independent oversight of suicides, except by the department and its licensed doctors, none of whom are legally compelled to self-incriminate.

Two government-appointed “navigators” have been hired in Victoria to assist patients and their families, acting like a suicide-only shopfront. They are known to cold-call doctors, effectively called “doctor-shopping”, to locate a doctor who is willing to provide euthanasia for a patient.

Doctor-shopping is especially useful if a doctor refuses to provide assisted suicide and recommends that another medical pathway has better whole-of-life outcomes for the patient and their family.

The Victorian legal system does not require either of the two doctors who verify a request to have any medical expertise in the patient’s condition or to have qualifications in mental health assessment.

Rather than increasing public safety, the hollow promises of ‘safeguards’ by the pro-suicide campaign appear to be an ineffectual speedbump on a pathway to no restrictions.

FamilyVoice expects a pro-assisted-suicide bill from the Labor government of Western Australia later this year. The WA Ministerial Expert Panel recently recommended a model that has even fewer protections than the Victorian laws.

We will provide more details about the legislation, and how to contact WA MPs, as soon as they come to light.

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