I've on the case of Victorian man Heinz Klinkermann who attempted to kill his disabled wife and himself at the same time. My comment in this case was principally about the need to uphold the criminal code in court judgement and how that should be balanced with mercy in sentencing as appropriate.
The Klinkermann's both survived the incident - a case of attempted murder/suicide - as reflected in the charges.
It is not classically a euthanasia case. Yet ABC News Online reporter, Jacqui Peake seemed to think so in her article of the 26th of February with the headline: Husband avoids jail in voluntary euthanasia case. If that were not enough, the lead sentence in the article reads:
The case of a man who was sentenced for the attempted murder of his wife has again shed light on the issue of voluntary euthanasia.
Sorry, Jacqui - it hasn't and it doesn't!
I don't know if this is statistically accurate, but it seems to me that Murder/Suicides are becoming more frequent. According to US researcher, Donna Cohen, the typical murder-suicide case involves a depressed controlling husband who shoots his ill wife: "The wife does not want to die and is often shot in her sleep. If she was awake at the time, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself." See WebMD, "Murder-Suicides in Elderly Rise: Husbands commit most murder suicidesâ€“without wives' consent,"
Please. I'm not suggesting that Mr. Klinkermann had anything other than a deluded intention of compassion; but these sad events need to be reported for what they are - not what someone thinks they ought to be or wishes they ought to be. We do know that Mr. Klinkermann went to extraordinary lengths to care for his ailing wife; but the charge was one of attempted murder.
But we also know that, as we've seen before, Exit International was somewhere in the mix. Peake's article says that police seized the couple's computer and found 'emails from Exit International'.
It is perhaps this point that had our journalist confused - but that still does not change the reality of what happened in a small rural Victorian town.
We don't know what involvement Exit International had with the Klinkermanns. However, from what we do know from the media reports is that the Klinkermann's were an extremely vulnerable couple living in increasing isolation and trying circumstances. If Mr Klinkermann had sought information on how to kill his wife and himself, is it likely that he would risk rejection if he told them of his circumstances; of possible depression and diminished judgement by explaining his circumstances to Exit?
We don't know. But we can be certain that the idea that a visit to a psychiatrist can uncover depressive illnesses in a gate-keeping role to access euthanasia legislation is pure bunkum. In the record of the operation of the NT euthanasia laws in the 1990s it was clear that at least one patient withheld information in regard to their mental health. It's a hoop-to-jump-through and little more than that.
Mr Klinkermann was given an 18-month supervised community corrections order. He can no longer see his wife because of an intervention order for her protection. This is surely sentence enough for a frail old man in these circumstances.
In making sentencing, Justice King, according to the ABC article said, anyone who holds strong views about voluntary euthanasia should not become a carer and that under current law, human life is protected and placed into a very special category. Justice King also predicted that, with our aging population, talk about end-of-life issues are only set to grow.
These are interesting observations. Is it possible or desirable that those with strong pro-euthanasia views should be excluded from 'caring roles' in our community? I doubt that this could be adopted. But it is nonetheless a valid point to consider how an individual's views might impact upon professional or familial roles in caring.
In a recent letter to the US Montana Legislature in support of bill HB 505 (that seeks to remove the possible defence of consent in assisted suicide cases and to tighten the statutes in other ways), Sanders County resident, Marlene Deakins, RN tells the story of how her brother, Wes, was discriminated against in the care he received in a Washington hospital once he made the 'mistake' of asking for information about assisted suicide (legal in Washington).
"By asking the question, he was given a "palliative care" consult by a doctor who heavily and continually pressured him to give up on treatment before he was ready to do so. It got so bad that Wes actually became fearful of this doctor and asked me and a friend to not leave him alone with her. Justified or not, Wes was afraid that the doctor would do something to him or have him sign something if she would find him alone."Some of the other doctors and staff members seemed to also write Wes off once they learned that he had asked about assisted-suicide."
And yet there are those that still maintain that euthanasia & assisted suicide law is not deleterious to the medical profession! It may be that there are other factors particular to Washington State or the US in general that we're not privy to here - but we cannot, therefore, simply write this comment off - it's real and it's a concern. If someone asks a doctor to kill them, they're saying that their life is not worth living - if the doctor agrees, then he's endorsing that sentiment. The question is: is it likely to be any different in Australia?
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