A mother in the Australian state of Victoria has become the first casualty of the state’s legalization of assisted suicide.
Kerry Robertson, 61, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. In March of this year, she decided to stop chemotherapy and other treatments, as the side effects had become too much to bear. According to BBC News, her family claimed she had “the empowered death that she wanted.”
Victoria’s Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act in 2017, and the law went into effect in June of this year. The law requires that a person wishing to legally commit suicide must be terminally ill with no more than 6 months left to live, or 12 months if they have a neurological condition that is degenerative. The patient must make three requests, and have two doctors sign off on the requests.
Robertson became the first person to use the law, and her family called it the “perfect” death, according to The Telegraph. “Mum has always been been brave – a real ‘feel the fear then do it anyway’ mentality to life – it’s the legacy she leaves with us,” Nicole Robertson said in an interview with The Guardian. “That was the greatest part, knowing we did everything we could to make her happy in life and comfortable in death.”
Yet as the Catholic bishops in Victoria wrote in a pastoral letter in June, the legalization of assisted suicide is not a cause for celebration. “We object to the unnecessary taking of a human life; we object to the diminishment of the love that can be given and received in the last days of our loved ones; we object to the lack of adequate funding for excellent palliative care; we object to state-sponsored practices that facilitate suicide; and most of all we object to the lazy idea that the best response our community can offer a person in acute suffering is to end their life,” the letter read. The bishops stated that Catholic hospitals and all people of “principled opposition to euthanasia” can and must continue to resist the new law as “conscientious objectors.”
Jenny Mikakos, Victoria’s Minister for Health, called Robertson’s use of the state’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act “an historic moment.”
“The Victorian parliament legalised voluntary assisted dying so that Victorians with an insufferable, terminal and incurable illness can have a genuine and compassionate choice at the end of their lives,” Mikakos said, according to the Telegraph.
The experience of other nations where assisted suicide has been legalized, however, paints a grisly picture of the unintended effects on society’s most vulnerable members. As Peter Abetz of the Australian Christian Lobby said, according to Right to Life Australia, despite the safeguards, “what we do know is that in every jurisdiction that has gone down the path of physician-assisted suicide, there have been wrongful deaths.”
In The Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for nearly two decades, the situation has become so fraught with unintended consequences and abuses that people with disabilities, developmental disorders, autism, mental illness, sexual abuse, and other non-terminal conditions are being euthanized.
The perverse social incentives set in motion by the law are so bad that former Dutch euthanasia advocate-turned-vociferous skeptic, Theo Boer has warned other nations to study first the horror that has gripped his country: “Look closely at the Netherlands because this is where your country may be 20 years from now.” In 1995, Australia’s Northern Territory became the first political entity in the world to legalize assisted suicide. Eight months later, the law was overturned by the federal government.
Other Australian states, including Western Australia and Queensland, are now considering similar legislation, according to BBC News.
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