Euthanasia deaths almost double in Victoria
The State of Victoria in Australia legalised both assistance to suicide by prescribing a lethal poison and euthanasia by lethal injection from 19 June 2019.
The third six monthly official report on this deadly practice, released on 3 March 2021, shows a rapid rise in the incident of euthanasia from 11 deaths by lethal injection in the six months January to June 2020 to 20 such deaths in the following six months July to December 2020 - an 81.8% increase or nearly double.
Total increase in deaths
The total number of deaths by euthanasia or assistance to suicide in July to December 2020 was 94 - almost double the 49 deaths by these means in July to December 2019.
This represents 0.45% of all deaths in Victoria in July-December 2020. It took Oregon twenty years for deaths from legalised assistance to suicide to reach that rate.
A total of 175 people were assisted to suicide or euthanased in 2020 - already above the 100 to 150 deaths per year Premier Daniel Andrews projected the rate would stabilise at after only 12 such deaths he anticipated in the first 12 months (it was 1083% of that figure - 130 deaths).
Whose keeping count of the dead?
There have now been three different figures given for deaths by assistance to suicide - "medication was self-administered" in each successive report from the Board for the period 17 June 2019- 31 Dec 2019: 43, then 37, now 40.
This highlights the complete lack of a requirement for a witness at the time of the supposed suicide.
If we can't even get a reliable count how can we possibly know that the lethal poison was self-administered by a competent person with full knowledge?
Board promotes a think euthanasia first approach to a terminal diagnosis
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board "continues to encourage people to initiate conversations about voluntary assisted
dying [sic = euthanasia or assistance to suicide] early after being given a terminal diagnosis. Voluntary assisted dying is not an emergency medical procedure and, as previously reported, the application process takes time.
Starting early provides greater opportunity to complete the process without additional stress or worry."
This is an extraordinary position to take.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 section 9 sets out a set of criteria for eligibility to access assistance to suicide or euthanasia under that Act. These criteria include that a condition is expected to cause death "within weeks or months, not exceeding six months".
Additionally, the condition must be "causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable".
The Board ignores these matters in its advice urging Victorians when first given a terminal diagnosis to start thinking about obtaining a lethal poison to commit suicide or arranging for a doctor to give them a lethal injection.
There is a callousness to this advice that disregards important issues.
What about first getting a second opinion to confirm the validity of the diagnosis and prognosis? Even euthanasia enthusiast Andrew Denton concedes doctors get these wrong? Or available treatment the doctor giving the terminal diagnosis may not be aware of?
What about seeking information about palliative care?
Naturally many people suffer from depression when first given a terminal diagnosis. Is this really the right moment to be encouraging a person to think about suicide or euthanasia?
People with a disability may experience being given a "terminal" diagnosis several times in their lives. Others around them, including doctors, may consider them "better off dead"!
The Board's callous and ghoulish encouragement to think about euthanasia or suicide "early after being given a terminal diagnosis" could reinforce this prejudiced and discriminatory attitude, leading to demoralisation and despair.
Suicide by telemedicine
The Victorian Government appointed Board continues to lobby the Commonwealth Government to change its excellent law prohibiting instruction in the means of suicide and encouragement to suicide over a carriage service (telephone or internet).
If you or anyone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14