Assisted Suicide Campaigners Capture Australia's Headlines
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 26, 2006
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA--The debate over assisted suicide, or "voluntary euthanasia", appears to be heating up again in Australia, with renewed calls for overturning a 1997 federal law that makes it a crime to assist in a suicide.
Last Friday, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone told a conference on voluntary euthanasia that the government should take another look at the law that imposes a maximum life in prison for assisting in a suicide. According to the West Australian, Vanstone said that those who act on their own convictions to violate the law are behaving honorably.
"To oppose a law, to break it and take the consequences, is an honorable course of action," she said in a pre-recorded speech. "To break the law and seek to hide your actions -- to avoid the consequences -- is both criminal and shameful."
On Wednesday, the Courier-Mail reported that Queensland police might reopen an investigation into the May 2002 suicide death of assisted suicide campaigner Nancy Crick, following the publication of a "tell-all" book written by a fellow campaigner.
Crick, 69, said she wanted to die because she was in the terminal stages of cancer and in constant pain. In her Internet "suicide diary", she wrote that she hoped her death would test the laws that make it illegal to assist in a suicide. An autopsy later revealed that she had no cancer in her body.
In the book "Telling it Straight", Crick's friend John Edge reportedly tells how he and 20 others present at Crick's suicide acted to cover-up the crime, including how he buried the unused drugs in her backyard, washed the bottle that held the pills, wiped fingerprints from two other drug containers, and threw a mobile phone into a river.
On Tuesday, Customs officials at Brisbane airport seized 45 copies of "The Peaceful Pill Handbook" from Dr. Philip Nitschke. The euthanasia crusader was the focus of a recent Australian law that makes it illegal to use telephones, websites, text messaging and chat rooms to "counsel or incite suicide", or promote or provide instructions on suicide methods. Breaking the law can be met with a maximum penalty of $110,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations.
If he does not appeal the seizure, the books could be destroyed in a matter of weeks.
Nitschke said there is no "incitement" in the book, and compared the seizure to the burning of books in Germany during the Nazi era.
In a related story, the Sunday Mail reported that an 73-year-old woman confessed that she and 11 other Australians recently smuggled from Mexico several bottles of the sedative Pentobarbital -- a barbiturate commonly used in assisted suicides in the Northern Territory of Australia before the federal government made it illegal.
None of them has a terminal illness.
Disability rights advocates from around the world have spoken out against assisted suicide, pointing out, among other things, that many who ask for it are not in terminal stages of illness, but are worried of becoming dependent on others. Where such practices become legal, people with disabilities have been pressured to take their lives to no longer "be a burden" to their families or society, many argue.
"Vanstone praised for euthanasia support" (The West Australian)
"Charges may follow Crick death book" (Townsville Bulletin)
"Customs seizes Nitschke's new book" (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"Death drugs smuggled in" (The Sunday Mail)