The banned book.
Photo Courtesy of: SMH.com.au
I HAVE LONG ARGUED that suicide is the ultimate civil right. Drastic, often selfish, excruciatingly cruel to surviving loved ones, but ultimately your right.
One of of the most convincing and telling plays and movies of all time was Whose Life Is It Anyway? And anybody who even remotely agrees with that premise must regard brave and committed people like Dr. Philip Nitschke as heroes and not villains. Despite what the AMA dishes out in its draconian blinkered punishments.
There are people who vehemently support voluntary euthanasia and Dying With Dignity but who dislike, even loathe, Nitschke, his organisation Exit International and his Peaceful Pill Handbook which is banned in some countries, including Australia, but is now available as an e-book.
The issue is rarely out of the news but is currently back with a vengeance because of the controversial suicide of 25-year-old Melbourne man Joe Waterman who used Exit and the handbook to find a Chinese supplier of Nembutal and used it to take his life in a South Melbourne motel.
His baffled, grieving family blames Nitschke for the ease with which a disturbed young man could access the suicide drug.
Nitschke says: ‘Well, it’s not as easy as buying a rope. That is the commonest method of suicide’.
found by their parent
And I agree with him. I’d far rather a person get access to a life-ending drug than jump in front of a train (traumatising the driver) or being scraped off the pavement by paramedics after jumping off a building or being found by their parents in their bedroom with their head blown off – as happened to friends of mine.
The Nitschke rope quote is in a cover story by Kate Legge in the Weekend Australian magazine with the cover line A Right to Die. Tales from the new front line.
The article, critical of ‘Dr.Death’, says ‘Buying a suicide drug has never been easier – and it’s not just the terminally ill who are doing it. Where will it all end?’
Well, for some of us it will end in death earlier than we maybe hoped for. I, for one, want to have the right to end my life, if and when I decide that the quality is no longer there.
And I should be allowed to legally own a drug which I can take when I
decide that time has come.
how it should be
Nitschke believes that euthanasia drugs should be routinely available to anyone over 55.
He says: ‘I believe that every rational adult should have access to a reliable, peaceful and lethal pill that one keeps at home. Use of this pill would only be considered when one finds that the quality of life is such that death is the preferred option. This is how it should be, this is how it could be.’
(I visited a dying young friend at the weekend and I wish she had the accoutrements to make that choice when she feels that time has come. Her life quality is shithouse).
When I was terminally ill with liver cancer and given only 12 months to live I knew then that if a transplant did not come my way (and the chances were remote) I would take action on my own terms, in my own time, to end my life.
The gift of a transplanted organ changed that. For now. But my original stance would return in a flash if the donated organ was rejected (as still may happen) and my life enjoyment and mobility crashed.
The issue is politically back on stage – something that John Howard and Kevin Andrews thought they’d buried when they scuttled the Northern Territory voluntary euthanasia legislation in the 1990s.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has drafted a Dying With Dignity bill which would apply federally with strict medical confines and we now have eloquent speakers in Dr. Rodney Syme who is challenging authority by admitting he has helped at least one patient die. And we have the strength and bravery of Peter Short. His time is short and he is devoting energy and money to the Dying With Dignity campaign, There will be candidates for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party in the Victorian elections next month.
The irony of all this – as people attack Philip Nitschke -- is that most public opinion polls show about 80 per cent of people are in favour of voluntary euthanasia.
To me the question is always that simple one: Whose life it is, anyway?