Death of Victorian woman wrongly used to aid euthanasia argument

Reports in The Melbourne Age on the suicide death of an elderly woman, is being used by euthanasia advocates to push their agenda.The Age reports: "So when years of intolerable arthritic pain finally took its toll last year, putting her at imminent risk of being hospitalised until the end, Mrs Hookey secretly implemented her final exit strategy."Mrs Hookey was not dying. Certainly she was in pain and discomfort. Why this was not being effectively managed is not mentioned. But she would not have been a candidate for euthanasia under any of the bills presented in Australia in recent years.She may have had access to euthanasia if she had lived in The Netherlands where, recently, a euthanasia service was criticised for having agreed to euthanasia for an elderly woman who had tinnitis and simply feared finding herself in a nursing home.Mrs Hookey was a long-time member of Exit International. The inference is that she obtained a lethal drug - probably Nembutal - via contact with Exit. According to The Age, Exit director, Philip Nitschke, is again warning his supporters not to discuss such matters with Police.The thrust of the initial story was that Mrs Hookey were upset at the treatment by Victorian Police: 

"Ever since, Mr Hookey and his family have been subjected to an increasingly alarming police investigation, and they now fear they may be caught up in the controversy surrounding Philip Nitschke - the founder of Exit International who is being investigated by police and health authorities for helping several people take their lives."

What are the Police to do? Firstly, Mr Hookey and two others were in the Hookey house the night that Mrs Hookey suicided. Even if only for the sake of eliminating any suspicion of their involvement, the Police must investigate the circumstances. Secondly, the article explains that, "They (Police) took the family's computer and Ipad, and tried to find any books that Mrs Hookey might have used to plan her death. This suggests that they are likely more concerned about the influence of Exit International in Mrs Hookey's death.

While ever assisting in suicide is a crime, such investigations are entirely appropriate. Certainly, they will be difficult for the family who, I think, need to appreciate the ultimate likely benefit from an outcome that exonerates them.

In response to questions about the Police action, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews observed that, "These are very deeply personal and sensitive matters. The law is the law though and people have a job to do. But I would urge everybody involved to be as sensitive and respectful as they possibly can," he said.

Mrs Hookey's husband, though I'm sure genuine, has echoed the mantra of Exit and Exit supporters that, if euthanasia were legal, Mrs Hookey would not have had to 'die alone'. This misses the point. She would not have qualified.

Mrs Hookey's death was a suicide. She even left a suicide note by her bed. Sad as this is, it is not an argument for euthanasia. What it should speak to us about is the problem with elder suicide. Philip Nitschke confirmed this in an email to The Age:

"Suicide is NOT a crime, and people like Dorothy need no assistance to take this lawful step," he wrote in an email.

"She had informed Exit of her plans to possibly end her life years ago, and had prepared herself for this possibility by acquiring the appropriate euthanasia drug."

Nitschke bends the truth here. Suicide has been decriminalized, NOT legalised. It is not lawful to take one's own life, it is simply not punishable under law.

As I told The Age in the follow up article:

"In reality, what has occurred here is suicide and I think we need to question, as a society, whether we are comfortable with elderly people suiciding or whether we should continue to promote suicide prevention for all. Reality is, you can't really have both."

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