Killing me softly …

Euthanasia is back in the news, albeit in a fairly low key way.  Last Sunday The Peaceful Pill Handbook, by longtime Darwin-based euthanasia campaigner Dr Phillip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart, was banned by the Classification Review Board of the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification, after having initially been approved on restrictive terms.  The reversal followed an appeal by our freedom-loving Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock and Right to Life Australia.

In somewhat related news, following the death a few days ago of 71 year old Alzheimer’s sufferer Graeme Wylie at his home at Cammeray on Sydney’s lower north shore, Wylie’s de facto partner of 20 years and a 74 year old cancer-suffering friend (and Nitschke supporter) were today charged with his murder and refused bail in Manly court:

The court heard Mr Wylie had Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and an interest in euthanasia, and that Ms Jenning was a member of pro-euthanasia group, Exit International.

What on earth are police doing spying on couples in this situation,  who just want to end their lives with dignity and at a time and place of their own choosing?  Don’t they have enough real crimes with real victims to investigate?  Somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of Australians favour legalised euthanasia in situations like this, yet a miniscule minority of cruel, hypocritical God-botherers still manage to hold our cowardly politicians in terrorem.

I had some reservations about the NT’s euthanasia law of the 1990s.  It lacked sufficient safeguards to ensure truly voluntary and informed consent.  But those were purely technical objections.  There is simply no cogent argument against the principle of voluntary euthanasia.  This article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy effectively demolishes the standard arguments of the wowser brigade.

Phil Nitschke is a difficult and sometimes irritating individual, as is his strange bedfellow in euthanasia advocacy former NT Chief Minister Marshall Perron.  Yet both are incredibly determined campaigners for a just and important cause.  Nitschke is a national hero and will be seen as such in years to come.  He should be the next Australian of the Year, though it isn’t likely that either Howard or his God-bothering doppelganger Kevin Rudd would ever permit Nitschke’s nomination.

No policeman or politician is going to force me to stay around if I ever contract Alzheimer’s and slowly turn into a vegetable.  I’m going to make sure that I’m equipped to dispatch myself painlessly without needing any help from Jen that could put her freedom at risk.  Some time in the next decade or so I’ll obtain a generous batch of Nembutal from a country where it can still be legally prescribed, and a copy of the Peaceful Pill Handbook from somewhere it’s also legally available (i.e. any civilised country), so I can make sure that I take an effective dose.   But I shouldn’t be forced to such an expedient, nor should anyone else in such a position.  It should be legal. 

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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34 Responses to Killing me softly …

  1. derrida derider says:

    Why are our parliamentarians so much more conservative in these matters than their electorates? Its not just the Howard government – have a look at the views of people like the Ruddster, or Beazley. It must be the penalty we face for electing old men to represent us.

    As for our attorney general, I think he is really beneath contempt – the worst type of hypocrite, professing one set of principles and acting on quite others.

  2. Jacques Chester says:

    Why are our parliamentarians so much more conservative in these matters than their electorates?

    For the same reason politicians avoid offending anyone with strong beliefs: motivated votes.

  3. Nabakov says:

    Why don’t they just charge the instigators of such crimes first and foremost? Anyone who talks others into ending his or her life should get the death penalty I reckon.

    Sarcasm tags off. Euthanasia has been going on forever. In Victorian times “died after a long illness, attended by the family doctor” was pretty much code for a mutually agreed on lethal shot of morphine to put to an end to a fatal illness that otherwise promised a long, painful and undignified exit.

    It’s like abortion. People are gonna it anyway. At least make sure they have access to professional knowledge and so don’t wake up in intensive care with a liver wrecked by 100 aspros dissolved in a bourbon and coke and a foul hangover.

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  5. Ken Parish says:


    The whole doctor “double effect” charade is part of the problem rather than the solution. For arse-covering reasons, few doctors will embark on the lethal morphine shot until long after the dyng victim has lost any semblance of dignity or control. I’m a devotee of Howard’s Way in this respect: I’ll decide when I leave and the circumstances in which I do so (barring catastrophic and unexpectedly immobilising illness or accident).

  6. C.L. says:

    Bloke wants his old man’s beach house. Buys him a copy of the “Peaceful Pill”.

    “Dr” Philip Nitschke on doing something about it:

    I couldn’t do anything about my situation. The dog sat outside and barked and chewed bones all the time. So I was trying to desperately study because I was keen to go to university. Then I decided I was going to kind of do something about it, I couldn’t expect anyone else to do something about it and this idea is I suppose, the theme, if there is one, is that you’re doing things about things that you feel you can’t do much about, the circumstances aren’t allowing you to deal with, so I killed the dog. Having come from the country I found I suppose I was rather surprised at sort of the horrific reaction to that.

    “So what do you think you’re doing? You can’t go around killing people’s dogs like that”. I was saying, “well, what’s the crime?” I mean, I killed – we used to go out hunting all the time in the country, killing rabbits, killing all sorts of things in terms of one’s adolescent sort of country-type experience. They said, “well there’s a big difference between you killing a rabbit and killing a dog”. I said, “is there?”

    Let no-one forget about this oddball’s manipulation of Nancy Crick. Nitschke is a selfish turd who should be in jail.

  7. C.L. says:

    I rang the Katoomba Police and spoke with the Police Officer who found my father. He was traumatised.

    He told me on the phone that he had never witnessed anything quite like what he had found in my father’s bed in his entire Police career. As a humanitarian and a nurse, I began to listen to him recount the events of he and his colleagues finding my fathers body. Or rather particular by the smell. The flies. The blood on the walls. He told me that it looked like a possible suicide. As I listened quietly to this Police officer it occurred to me, that my father’s death did not only have a final impact on him, but was going to have a powerful rippling effect on many people.

    Ending a life “with dignity”, thanks to Dr Phil. Read the whole thing.

  8. whyisitso says:

    “I had some reservations about the NT

  9. Fred Argy says:

    Ken, I share your anger and indignation. Well said.

  10. derrida derider says:

    My own father died

  11. Bannerman says:

    Ken, your good self and the Bannerman rarely agree on issues of importance, however on this one issue, he stands forthright alongside. As with yourself, Bannerman has already put the wheels of his own exit from this life into place. He’ll set them rolling when the time is right, by his own hand, at his own volition.

    Bannerman is vehemently in agreement and frowns disdainfully on those who would deny that each human being holds the inalienable right to self-determination, inclusive of the day, date and time of their own demise and the manner of the departure.

    No-one….absolutely no-one will tell Bannerman what he can and cannot do with his own life, or death.

  12. Paul Watson says:

    Today’s Oz has quite a different spin compared to the SMH story linked to above:,20867,21299539-2702,00.html

    The significant age difference between the partners adds validity to the Oz’s spin, I believe.

    Over coming decades, euthanasia is going to become increasingly muddied by “early-inheritance self-help actions” (to put it euphemistically), because of the massive wealth disparities between relatively poor Xer children in their 50s and 60s and their comparatively affluent (home-owning!) elderly parents.

  13. whyisitso says:

    Yes, Paul. I refrained from mentioning that possible motive in my comment above because of the sub-judice factor. But now that you’ve raised the issue the possibility of extraneous motives in so-called mercy killings will become impossible to control if assisted euthanasia is legalised.

    I don’t have a religious conviction about this matter, so I guess I differ from The Currency Lad in that I don’t have a moral objection to suicide. However I do have a strong antipathy to murder, however it is rationalised. Motivations to murder are murky at the best of times, and “inheritance self-help actions” (very elegantly phrased, Paul!) present murkier motivations than most.

  14. Link says:

    My Dad practised ‘euthanasia’ not with one lethal dose, but with incremental increases in morphia, for terminally ill patients who had been in terminally ill hospitals, interminably. It was and probably still is common practise.

    It is not possible to enshrine such a practise into law, not everything can be rendered ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’. I think it very risky to have kinfolk with vested interests empowered to make decisions, and take such drastic steps, or even cognisant individuals.

    People who murder themselves, end up in an effective spirutal no-mans land which can be very difficult to get out of. I know you won’t believe this Ken and can only suggest that you do some afterlife research or spend a bit of time thinking about what will happen to my soul when I die? Why do I have a soul anyway? or, if indeed I have a soul what is its possible use?

  15. Jason Soon says:

    It should be *easier* not harder to sort out the murky motivations from the sincere ones if the practice was out in the open and legal. This is purely a matter of contract – what if I signed a contract when I was at my early stages of Alzheimer’s authorising a close relative to euthanasise me once it went beyond a certain stage? Whose business is it except mine and the person I authorised? Ensure I’m of sound mind when I signed the contract, get a doctor in to look me over when I reach the stage contracted for to oversee that there has been no abuse and that’s it. This is made more not less difficult by it currently being in a grey area.

    Link, your superstitions are no basis for public policy.

  16. Beautiful post Ken. All I can say is I have made similar plans.

  17. My mother’s father died in the 1950s of oesophageal cancer. Nasty I’ll bet. As an act of mercy the consulting physician brought his suffering to an end a few days before he would have died had he tried with every last ounce of medicine available to him to keep him alive. When it came to the post-mortem, the consulting physician said that that would not be a good idea – and of course in the 1950s that was that. Case closed.

  18. whyisitso says:

    “This is purely a matter of contract”

    Interesting comment. What Jason is advocating here is that if anyone gets sick of life for any reason (romantic or financial etc. disaster) all he or she has to do is find a willing killer, get a contract signed and bang! The law shouldn’t call that murder and therefore must not intervene.

    One of the reasons I just can’t go all the way with libertarians.

  19. Ummm, W, any relevant legislation would define things like ‘euthanasia’, ‘method’ and the relevant procedure, which Jason touches on:

    Ensure I

  20. Robert Braby says:

    Ken, I agree with you emphatically. My attitude to vol.euthanesia is simple:

    1. If someone is suffering and wants help we have an ethical obligation to help them, even if it means ending their life (subject to 3. infra). Anyone who reads the tragic cases reported in the D.W.D (Dying With Dignity) newsletters would be utterly heartless to deny the sufferers their wishes.

    2. I have used the word

  21. Yobbo says:

    Doggie lynch mobs aren’t all that uncommon in the country, CL. Usually it requires a larger sin than barking though.

    The general rule is, if a dog is killing or harassing lifestock or people and the owner refuses to do something about it, they can expect the dog to be baited or shot at the next possible opportunity.

  22. teajay says:

    It’s posts/threads like this that help illustrate to me how poisonous emotion is to any rational discussion.

  23. Pavlov's Cat says:

    If you’d read Philip Nitschke and Fiona Stewart’s book Killing Me Softly, C.L., and I bet you haven’t, you would know the full story of the dog, which is tiresomely and inaccurately trotted out by every right-to-lifer on the planet as proof that he is the Devil. In fact he was a pretty, brooding, intense teenager from the country, boarding in the city, trying to study, and being sexually harassed by his landlord, the owner of the dog. He thought, in desperation, that killing the dog would get him out of the situation. Which it did.

    You’d also know that he has both a medical degree from the University of Sydney and a PhD in laser physics, and spent quite a lot of time driving around Darwin in the middle of the night providing medical treatment to drug addicts and sex workers, so how much more “Doctor” do you want? Or are you just being deliberately misleading with the so-called scare quotes, as with the derogatory ‘Dr Phil’? This kind of rhetorical slippage is cheap as well as dishonest.

    And blaming him for the decision made and acted on by the father of that woman in your link is completely irrational. Are you saying that man had no right to make his own decision about what he would do?

    Great post, Ken, and good on you for writing about it; I was going to, and then bottled out, having overfilled my quota of psychos and flamers this month already. But a word of warning, to you and others with similar plans; my sister, who works as a rehab nurse, says that in a situation like that, you’ll probably only get a small window of opportunity — if you get one at all — before you’re too helpless (or gaga) to act for yourself. Act fast.

  24. Link says:

    Jason. Some suggestions for you. Grow up. Then Die. Then come back and tell me about my superstitions that I and well gee I dunno mate, postively millions of Muslims, Christians, Hindus, et al believe and have done so for a very, very, long time. Who the hell do you think you are, twerp?

  25. Link says:

    What you don’t realise Jason is that your utter lack of belief in anything other than your own intellectual superiority, which you seem always trying to prove to us, is that people such as you, who have no belief in anything other than their own greatness, are in terms of world populations in a tiny, tiny minded minority.

    And while I’m feeling narky and pissed off with having to defend attacks on my faith and the right to express its importance (on a blog). See my original comment, (we’re all gonna die suckers, but not necessarily when we want to).

    Yobbo maate, surely hell on earth must be anywhere near where you are. Doggy lynch mobs? You participate in these do you? Any other mob activities you’d like to fess up too?

  26. Link says:

    Your a provocative little twerp too. No. I don’t like you either.

  27. Robert Braby says:

    On Sunday, 4 March, ABV2 – Compass program, 10.35 pm (Melbourne) will screen a N.Z. case involving euthanasia that resulted in a murder conviction.

  28. Nabakov says:

    I must you’re behaving in a very unchristian fashion here Link. Throwing around snippy little insults and suggesting your interlocuters should die before discussing this issue any further with you.

    And no one has been attacking your superstitions here.Jason was just pointing out that belief in intangible and incorporeal metaphysical entities should have no place in setting public policy. I’m sure you’d feel the same way if a fundamentalist Islamic Government imposed sharia law on you and forbid you to celebrate Christ as the son of God.

    And if, as you say, all us non-believers are a tiny minority anyway (and doomed to everlasting hell no doubt), then why get het up about our views anyway? Did you skip the bits in the Bible about forgiveness and turning the other cheek and go straight to all the hot begatting action?

    For the record, both my parents have given my brother and I medical power of attorney. Unfortunately they’re both in excellent health so it’ll be a while if ever for us to get the chance to play Pong on their life-support systems.

  29. Link says:

    Nabakov, I have never claimed to be a Christian, nor do I have a superstitious bone in my body and I don’t particularly care where you go when you die, for the most part you are already there, I hope you like it.

    It was early. Jason is truly a twerp it is about time someone was honest with him. Please forgive me for getting ‘het up’, and thank you for taking the time to defend him, by bolstering is trivialisation of what I feel strongly about.

  30. Nabakov says:

    “Nabakov, I have never claimed to be a Christian,”

    “And while I

  31. Link says:

    Nabakov you know absolutely nothing of me. For your information Sir, I live bang smack in the middle of very rural Australia surrounded by all manner of beasts and brutes alike. Over the last three months I have been working on a sheep property as a farm hand, etcetera. A word of advice old son, (sir) never assume anything about anyone.

    If you think I am going to disclose any details of my faith to a bunch of Godless cretins, twerps, nerds and buffoons, then you must take me for a greater fool than I actually am. Suffice to say I have one and I must confess I was surprised how strongly I felt about Mr Soon dismissing it out of hand as so much supersitition especially as I am devoid of such. He too has made the mistake of making many wrongful assumptions about me.

    I am justified in ‘slagging’ of Jason, because he annoys me so intensely with his longwinded, highfaluting, claptrap which is not so much intended to elucidate us to his thoughts but to impress us with how bright he is. Jason is bright there is no question, but rue the day when he gets any kind of say in ‘public policy’.

    You ‘guys’, are mostly, all head, little dicks, and no heart. Working on a farm with ‘blokes’ has helped to enforce that too, although you can swap the heads and the dicks around.

  32. Link says:

    BTW interesting to read some personal details about your life, which sounds as though it is more maybe was very intersting as I had been thinking, ‘that Mr Nabakov is inscrutable I’ve never known him to say anything about himself as a person’.

  33. Link says:

    Typo: (re your life) sounds as though it is or maybe was . Exasperation spells typos.

  34. Link says:

    And again. I have no wish to have any ongoing, ill-feeling with you Nabakov. If you feel the need to attack me because you don’t understand me, then all I can advise is that you get to know your enemy a bit better before making broadsides which cannot possibly hit their target. I most certainly do not wish to be your enemy and if we are to be, over articles of faith, then, I love you darling (but not very much). (Am I being Christian enough for you?)

    I would expose my soft underbelly and apolgise for this ridiculous sniping. Go further and flatter you on your genius and tell you how mostly I am in agreement with you and enjoy your comments when I come across them. But alas, I won’t. I am too mistrustful of what is stacked against me in relation to my outsider status, i.e,

    then why get het up about our views anyway?

    and realise that I would merely be leaving myself open for some jolly joker to slash me to bits. Sorry to Ken too for de-railing his post and effectively shutting down discussion.

    Issues of life and death and what one individual believes are probably going to bring with them questions and of faith or at least I’d like to think so. Superciliously dismissing someone’s faith by implying that it is nothing more than so much hocus pocus mumbo-jumbo when you cannot know that it isn’t, is rude, unthinking, and in some instances dangerous. Feelings held in the heart are strong. So, I am blaming Jason who knows perfectly well his addressing me on this thread, (which normally he would never do) in such a superior and dismissive way, would probably either hurt, or rile me. He could so easily have ignored my comment. As I could his, and will in future. I think I’ve made my point. Instead Jason chose to draw attention to my comment and with it my faith with no idea of what he was actually doing. Ipso facto, twerp.

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