LIFE ISSUES by Paul RussellNews Weekly
Woman's suicide wrongly used to justify euthanasia
, April 11, 2015
The suicide death late last year of an elderly Victorian woman is being used by euthanasia advocates to push their agenda.
The suicide on November 26, 2014, of 86-year-old Dorothy Hookey, a resident of Spring Gully, near Bendigo in country Victoria, was recently reported in the Melbourne daily newspaper, The Age.
Director of HOPE,
It said: “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” (The Age, March 24, 2015).
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 had she been living in the Netherlands, where, recently, a euthanasia-provider was criticised for having agreed to euthanasia for an elderly woman who was suffering tinnitis and simply feared ending up in a nursing home (NL Times, January 19, 2015).
Mrs Hookey was a long-time member of Dr Philip Nitschke’s pro-euthanasia group, Exit International. She somehow reportedly obtained a lethal drug — probably the barbiturate, Nembutal.
According to The Age, Dr Nitschke is again warning Exit supporters not to discuss such matters with police.
The thrust of the initial story was that Mrs Hookey’s widower, Graham Hookey, and family members have been upset at their treatment by Victorian police.
The report says: “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? First, Mr Hookey, 85, and two other family members were in the Hookey house the night that Mrs Hookey committed suicide. Even if only for the sake of eliminating any suspicion of their involvement, the police must investigate all the circumstances.
Secondly, as the article explains, “They (the police) took the family’s computer and Ipad, and tried to find any books that Mrs Hookey might have used to plan her death.”
Assisting in someone’s suicide has long been a crime, so such investigations are entirely appropriate. Certainly, they will be difficult for family members, who, I personally believe, need to appreciate the ultimate likely benefit from an outcome that exonerates them.
In response to questions about the police action, Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews observed: “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.”
Mrs Hookey’s widower, although I’m sure his sentiments are genuine, has echoed the mantra of Exit International and its supporters, when he declared that, were euthanasia 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 address is the problem of suicide among the elderly.
Philip Nitschke confirmed this in an email he sent to The Age: “Suicide is NOT a crime, and people like Dorothy need no assistance to take this lawful step.
“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.”
Dr Nitschke bends the truth here. Suicide has been decriminalised, 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” (The Age, March 24, 2015).
Anyone needing support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Paul Russell is executive director of the Australian network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide www.NoEuthanasia.org.au, and vice-chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International. He will be one of the keynote speakers at the forthcoming HOPE International Symposium on Euthanasia, to be held in Adelaide on May 22-23 (see below).
Janene Van Jaarsveldt, “Clinic reprimanded for tinnitus euthanasia”, NL Times (Netherlands, English language edition), January 19, 2015.
Julia Medew, “Exit International member’s death prompts Victoria police to suspect assisted suicide”, The Age (Melbourne), March 24, 2015.
Julia Medew, “Euthanasia supporters, grieving families questioned by Victorian police”, The Age (Melbourne), March 24, 2015.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International is hosting its first international symposium in the southern hemisphere. (Previous symposia have been held in New York, Vancouver, Edinburgh and Toronto).
Join us for an event not to be missed, featuring a dynamic mix of local and international speakers covering a wide range of topics all designed to help build our opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
• Alex Schadenberg, international chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International. Its headquarters are in London, Ontario, Canada.
• Paul Russell, executive director of the Australian network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide, and vice-chairman of EPC International.
• Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free New Zealand.
• Dr Theo Boer, professor of ethics at the Protestant Theological University at Groningen.
• Dr Nick Cooling, senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania’s school of medicine. He has worked in medical education for over 15 years, including as Director of Training of the GP Training Program in Tasmania for eight years.
• Dr Paul Dunne AM, former head of palliative medicine in Tasmania and a senior palliative-care specialist with over 20 years’ experience.
• Sue Hanson, national director of Clinical Services for Calvary Care and chair of the palliative care National Standards Assessment Program (NSAP) steering committee.
• Craig Wallace, convenor of Lives Worth Living, a disability advocacy group speaking out about euthanasia and eugenics, and president of People with Disability Australia (PWDA).
• Nic Steenhout, executive director of Vivre dans la Dignité (Living With Dignity) in Montreal, Canada.
• Henk Reitsema, Dutch ethicist, trustee of L’Abri Fellowship International and involved with launching EPC-Europe.
• Dr Tom Mortier, author and lecturer in chemistry at Leuven University College, Belgium.
• Nancy Elliott, a former three-term New Hampshire State Representative, and organiser of Living With Dignity — New Hampshire.
Information on registration fees, conference dinner and accommodation is available online at: http://conf.noeuthanasia.org.au/