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New report on elder abuse in Australia: implications for legalising euthanasia

A new report on elder abuse in Australia by L. Qu and colleagues - National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study: Final Report - released in December 2021 points to the prevalence of elder abuse and explains some of the risk factors and the common characteristics of perpetrators.

This information needs to inform any discussion of the risks to elderly people of legalising euthanasia and assistance to suicide, including risks arising from inheritance impatient adult children; psychological and physical abuse from adult children and intimate partners; social isolation and loneliness; failure to report abuse to professionals, including GPs; and the ineffective responses even when abuse is reported to professionals.

Proponents of legalised euthanasia or assistance to suicide who dismiss the risk of elder abuse in this context are naïve, disingenuous or simply so focused on demanding their “right to die” that they are prepared to ignore this risk.

As Dr Henry Marsh, a British neurosurgeon and proponent of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia, has said "Even if a few grannies get bullied into [suicide], isn’t that the price worth paying for all the people who could die with dignity?"

 


Latest Quebec report - euthanasia for loneliness or feeling a burden increases

The Sixth Annual Report on euthanasia in Quebec covering 2,426 officially reported cases from April 2020-March 2021 shows that 24% of people euthanased gave isolation or loneliness as a reason while 44% reported feeling like a burden for family, friends and caregivers as a reason.

The Report explicitly mentions isolation from loved ones due to COVID-19 restrictions as contributing to requests for euthanasia based on loneliness.

For 43% of people the mandatory waiting period of 10 days between an initial request and being killed by a lethal injection was waived - although only 16% of people has a prognosis of less than 2 weeks to live.

The cooling off period was dropped from 17 March 2021 allowing same day euthanasia. 52% of cases reported from 17-31 March 2021 involved euthanasia less than 10 days after an initial request.


Western Australia euthanasia rates hits 0.81% in first 5 months

On 24 November 2021, the Minister for Health, the Hon Roger Cook, told the Legislative Assembly that 50 people had “completed the process under voluntary assisted dying" by which he means that 50 people had died by assisted suicide or euthanasia using a lethal poison prescribed and supplied under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019.

This equates to a rate of 0.82% of all deaths being deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia.

This is already 64% higher than the Victorian rate for January-June 2021 – after two years of it Act operating and 34% higher than Oregon after it Act operating for 23 years.

There are several factors that could be leading to this higher rate of deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia compared to Oregon and Victoria.


Execution and euthanasia can both be painful and inhumane

To "execute" is defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as "to put to death according to law". While the motive for the execution of criminal offenders and of the terminally or chronically ill may be different the physiological process aimed at is the same - a rapid, painless, humane death. So it is not surprising that in many cases the same drugs are used - and consequently the same risks incurred that the deaths are not in reality rapid, painless or humane.

 


Noel Pearson warns that sanctioning death as an individual choice is an unprecedented shift in the nature of human society

Indigenous leader, Noel Pearson, has slammed Australian parliaments - beginning with the Northern Territory in 1995 - for leading "the world down a new path for humankind, something unprecedented in all of human prehistory and history: that suicide is now a choice of the individual sanctioned by society."


State approved suicide and euthanasia will commence in Queensland in 2023

Despite well-reasoned arguments put forward by 30 MPs demonstrating the fatal flaws in Queensland's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021, the Bill passed 61-30. Its provisions authorising suicide and euthanasia by administration of a State approved lethal poison will come into effect on 1 January 2023.

The Bill allows even broader access than in Victoria, most notably allowing people who have been assessed by two doctors (neither of whom needs to have any specialist qualifications or experience in the relevant medical condition) as having a condition "expected to  cause death in 12 months". 

It also imposes legal obligations on medical practitioners to collaborate in the suicide or euthanasia of their patients by giving them "approved information" on how to get assistance to end their lives. There is no exemption for, say, a psychiatrist treating a patient with a history of suicidal ideation.

The Bill also prevents any aged care facility or hospital from becoming a sanctuary where no resident or patient may be killed by administration of a poison. 

A series of amendments moved by David Janetzki (LNP - Toowoomba South) were all defeated, leaving the Queensland bill the most reckless and draconian suicide and euthanasia legislation in Australia.

61-30 vote in the single chamber Parliament of Queensland legalises suicide and euthanasia by lethal poison from 1 January 2023


Australian Care Alliance