Human Rights

Elder abuse is flourishing in Australia as assisted suicide grows

abortion, Canada, euthanasia, dementia, elder abuse

As Australia, like many other places in the world, has been increasingly legalizing assisted suicide, one issue should be giving lawmakers pause: the epidemic of elder abuse that could pressure vulnerable seniors into death.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition highlighted a report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which pointed out how prevalent elder abuse has become in Australia — and who the perpetrators typically are.

According to the press release, approximately one in six elderly Australians has reported experiencing elder abuse. Dr. Rae Kaspiew, one of the report’s co-authors, said this illustrates a problem not often recognized in Australia. Furthermore, the adult children of elderly parents are the most likely to be the ones committing the abuse.

“That only a third of victims are seeking help from a third party is a real concern. When abuse remains hidden, this creates the conditions for the abuse to continue,” Kaspiew said. “The fact that it’s often the people closest to them who are committing the abuse is particularly concerning, as this can create a desire by the victim to keep the abuse a secret to avoid shame, embarrassment, and negative repercussions for the perpetrator – especially when it comes to family members.”

READ: British surgeon and professor warns that assisted dying hurts the vulnerable

The report also profiled the kind of people most likely to commit elder abuse. Many of them were adult children with financial problems.

Adult children were most likely to commit financial, physical, and psychological abuse. Sons were almost twice as likely as daughters to commit financial abuse. Adult children were on par with intimate partners as perpetrators of neglect. Intimate partners also featured commonly as perpetrators of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

[P]erpetrators were reported to have … financial problems (nearly one in five). The most common problems associated with financial abuse were financial problems.

As Schadenberg points out, “inheritance impatience was a characteristic of 19.1% of abusers in Queensland in 2018/19.”

Yet Schadenberg reports that assisted suicide advocates aren’t concerned at all about the effect elder abuse can have on vulnerable populations being pressured into death. He cited Dr. Henry Marsh, a British neurosurgeon and assisted suicide and euthanasia advocate, who responded to the United Kingdom Parliament’s choice not to legalize assisted suicide by saying, “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?”

Last year, Queensland became the fifth state in Australia to legalize assisted suicide, even as some lawmakers warned that a lack of palliative care funding could pressure some patients into choosing death. The only state that has not yet legalized assisted suicide is New South Wales, although lawmakers there are reportedly already considering legalization.

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