UK Coroner calls for scrutiny of suicide advocacy groups

Coroner names Exit International after suicide death of 47 year old woman  

The same evening as the Australian Medical Board announces the suspension of Philip Nitschke's medical licence, another story - this time from the UK - casts a long, dark shadow over the clandestine death industry.

The woman, Gillian Clarke, was found dead in her home in April. The finding was that she died of asphyxiation. She had also consumed a 'potentially lethal dose of a sedative' said the Telegraph and Argus report.

When Mrs Clarke was found, along with her was discovered: 'A book called Five Last Acts: The Exit Path was found among her belongings and when her mother unlocked her daughter's iPod she found e-mail correspondence with two subscription organisations advocating assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.'

From the news story: 'Assistant coroner Dr Dominic Bell named those organisations as Peaceful Pill handbook and Exit International'. Note: The Peaceful Pill Handbook is a website associated with Exit International.

The article continued by quoting from the Coroner's findings:

Dr Bell said he had concerns about the existence of such exit organisations and it was important they were open to public scrutiny because if no-one was monitoring their activities then no one would have any idea of the impact they were having.

He said: "There are potential vulnerable people out there who may well be informed or manipulated by exit organisations and it's only by making this public record that attention can be drawn to such circumstances. It is important that some scrutiny is given to these organisations to limit the adverse possibilities on vulnerable individuals."

The Telegraph and Argus editorial was scathing in its criticism:

"Such sites are at best misguided, if they feel they can offer better help and guidance than health professionals, and at worst malicious by fanning the flames of self-harm in vulnerable people."

"Many people find themselves in a situation where they consider taking their own lives, but the last thing they need is egging on by people who run websites who know nothing about the often complex situations and factors in each individual's life.

"There are many credible and highly-regarded organisations such as the Samaritans who offer impartial, helpful and informed advice, and do not have an agenda to push like some of the pro-assisted suicide organisations who run these sites."

If you are troubled by suicidal thoughts or need help in any way, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636