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Exit International champions assisted suicide of healthy yet depressed novelist

An award-winning Australian novelist has committed suicide using the services of Exit International, a pro-death organization pioneered by Philip Nitschke, who has earned himself the nickname “Dr. Death.”

Writer Annah Faulkner wasn’t dying or even ill when she committed the procedure — instead, she was depressed over the death of her husband, Alec.

“I am grateful for friends and for the life I’ve had,’’ she wrote in a suicide note published by Exit International. “But whatever meaning I derived from that life, including past work, interests, and hobbies, disappeared with Alec.”

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Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in Tasmania, where Faulkner lived, through what is known as voluntary assisted dying (VAD). However, as an article detailing Faulkner’s death in The Australian notes, Exit International’s work in the country exists in defiance of many of the safeguards lawmakers put in place. While most VAD laws require a person to have a terminal illness and work in conjunction with a physician, Nitschke and his organization have become notorious for the idea that anyone should be allowed to die should they so choose — no questions asked.

In planning her death, Faulkner worked with Exit employee Kay Scurr, who helped her orchestrate the whole thing, never once offering to help her through her depression. “Never. No. I wasn’t going to patronise her,” Scurr said when asked if she suggested Faulkner delay her death. “She was very assertive and very confident … It was her business, her choice.”

The Australian reports that Nitschke is planning to use Faulkner’s death to advertise his services throughout Australia with a three-week tour where he’ll be offering workshops to people over 50 years of age, helping them understand how they, too, can kill themselves. Exit is also promoting Faulkner’s three-page suicide note to champion its cause. Faulkner apparently left a sizable endowment to the organization upon her death.

Sadly, Faulkner’s death reinforces what previous research has already confirmed: people who seek assisted suicide often do so because they are depressed or lonely, not because they are terminally ill. In many cases, when the depression is addressed, the desire to die disappears.

This is the sentiment of Professor Ian Hickie, co-director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.

“People in these situations often find new meaning, form new relationships, contribute in other ways, beyond the period of bereavement,” Hickie explained. “Reinforcing the idea that simply because you’re old or simply because a relationship has ended that this is the appropriate time to exit, that’s what I find most troubling about the whole Exit movement.”

In her suicide note, Faulkner questions the point of living without any joy. “What is the virtue of keeping me alive against my will? Life is not sacrosanct at the cost of joy,” she states.

But sadly, she missed the point. All life is precious, valuable, and a gift, regardless of difficulty. Allowing death to serve as a substitute for human interaction or treatment for mental illness is not beneficial to humanity.

 

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