Police Raid Terminally Ill for intending Suicide.

From ABC News.  

 The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is under fire after raiding the homes of two Victorians suffering from terminal illnesses.      

Controversial euthanasia campaigner Doctor Philip Nitschke says AFP officers executed search warrants on 78-year-old Don Flounders of Warragul, and 54-year-old Angie Belecciu of Hastings on Wednesday after the pair announced on television they planned to end their own lives.

Mr. Flounders suffers from the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma and Ms Belecciu is terminally ill with breast cancer.Dr Nitschke says he received a panicked phone call from Mr. Flounders this morning as the AFP raids were taking place

.”He called me saying ‘there are people in my house, what do I do’,” Dr Nitschke said.He says the AFP seized lethal drugs and items from the homes including a diary belonging to Mr. Flounder’s wife.

“It’s a strange use of resources. Shouldn’t they [AFP] be out catching terrorists not raiding the homes of the terminally ill,” Dr Nitschke said.  

Suicide in the general community is a tragedy, especially youth suicide, followed closely by those who could have found a better solution if they had just talked to someone, or if someone had just listened.

It is however obscene for the federal heavies to be raiding the homes of terminally ill people who express a wish to end it all. I do however think that if Doctor Philip Nitschke and others were not making a political issue of this, more of the terminally ill might be finding that their own doctors would offer some help. Some of them would anyway.

The issue in its most basic state though is, “who owns our lives?” As a libertarian, I believe in individual sovereignty that is that each of us is an independent entity and obviously that ownership is vested in each of us. Contractual arrangements such as marriage and so on may have some bearing on this.

I can see no real reason why a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal condition, whose medical options have run out should not be able to seek relief from a family doctor, if that doctor is willing to offer this. Some counseling would be desirable in these cases, but I see no virtue in forcing these people to live against their wishes.

21 thoughts on “Police Raid Terminally Ill for intending Suicide.

  1. “I do however think that if Doctor Philip Nitschke and others were not making a political issue of this, more of the terminally ill might be finding that their own doctors would offer some help. Some of them would anyway.”

    The entire reason Nitschke makes this political is because any Doctor who did so and got caught could be charged with murder and recieve a life sentence.

    The man is risking jail himself so others don’t have to in order to end suffering. I don’t see how he can be seen as anything other than a martyr.

  2. I agree Yobbo, except for the martyr bit because he’s not dead. The ownership of one’s own person is essential to true individual autonomy. There was a really good piece on the Law Report on ABC Radio National talking about just this. If you die in a car accident, doctors are well within their rights to sell your parts for medical testing. There is no need for “informed” consent apparently…

  3. The astonishing thing is that the AFP must know two-thirds of Australians are in favour of assisted suicide, yet they interfere in these situations nonetheless. There have been recent editorials calling for the dismissal of Mick Kelty for other reasons. I think this could easily be added to the list.

    Those who think America is somehow different from Australia in its infringement of human rights need to take a good look at this. It’s every bit as ominous.

  4. I agree with Yobbo, although I’m not sure you should blame the police — they’re just doing their job and were presumably basically ordered by some bueracrat (this is surely better than having the police create their own laws). It would be good if the police complained about this, which would put pressure on the government to get rid of stupid laws that waste time and money being enforced.

  5. I’m not sure you should blame the police — they’re just doing their job and were presumably basically ordered by some bueracrat (this is surely better than having the police create their own laws).

    That’s not how it works Conrad. All police forces are highly resistant to taking orders from non-police. Subject to overarching government policies including legislation, the bureaucrats who order raids and determine police priorities are themselves senior police officers.

  6. Yobbo; The point I am making is that while Doctor Philip Nitschke is taking up a cause that I feel is worthwhile, the publicizing by these people of their intent, has probably resulted in the prevention of their doing so, and in so doing may have discouraged other doctors from quietly going about what they think is right. “I am prescribing this, but they are very powerful and more than 5 will kill you.”

    I feel that a political campaign with probable support from the media would be likely to be more productive than the head on confrontationist approach he currently adopts. This tends only to be treated as news.

    Conrad; I’m not sure you should blame the police — they’re just doing their job and were presumably basically ordered by some bueracrat tends to be what I regard as “the Eichmann defense.” These people take the job knowing what is involved, and choose to do it.

    Assisting suicide is a side issue, the fact is that suicide itself is illegal is the fundamental issue here.

  7. Assisting suicide is a side issue, the fact is that suicide itself is illegal is the fundamental issue here.

    Assisting suicide is the central issue. Suicide is not illegal in NSW or, as far as I know, in any Australian State or territory.

    The point is that unless you are able to do it by yourself, you are stuffed. While you can ask for help, it is illegal to provide it even by a doctor. That’s the issue Philip Nitschke is going on about.

    I don’t see the issue as much different from self-defence. We technically have the right to defend ourselves, but we are prevented from having the means to do so.

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  9. Nitschke did an interview with Andrew Denton in the lead up to last years election. It brought home how utterly tragic and repugnant the existing laws are. If the interview is available anywhere online it would be good to get a link.

  10. Hey, look at things from the Police point of view! Who would you rather tackle- a den of underworld criminals who are all armed to the teeth, or people who don’t have weapons and won’t fight back?
    Let’s give them some slack here!

  11. “Suicide in the general community is a tragedy, especially youth suicide, followed closely by those who could have found a better solution if they had just talked to someone, or if someone had just listened.”

    The thing is that being young and healthy doesn’t make you any less ‘sovereign’ over your body than a sick and elderly person is. If suicide/assisted suicide is justified on the grounds of “individual sovereignty” then would seem to justify a lot of other things as well, some quite unpalatable.

    No one wants a situation where people are objectively determined in some way as ‘worthy’ of death (and thus permitted to kill themselves) but the alternative, which is entirely subjective, doesn’t look very appealing to me either.

  12. I’m divided on this. Yes, there should be no law against you killing yourself, but do I think the best solution is for assisted-suicide to be regulated by some piece of overbearing legislation? I’m not sure.

    Raids like this can only continue to outrage the public and perhaps shift the debate. Nitschke is a hero and these terminally ill criminals are political activists.

  13. This is a good example of non-violent civil disobedience, that unsurprisingly got media attention (while all the intellectual arguments got ignored).

    Likewise, if a bunch of people dying from cancer wanted to advertise the fact that they grow and smoke marijuana to relieve their pain, that would sell the case for legalisation pretty effectively to the public.

  14. OK, maybe I misjudged Philip Nitschke. I am of the opinion that where a person is terminally ill and wants out, the doctor should have the option of assisting.

  15. I am of the opinion that where a person is terminally ill and wants out, the doctor should have the option of assisting.

    That’s the view of many people who favour assisted suicide (voluntary euthanasia). Philip Nitschke’s group Exit International argues this places doctors in a unwarranted position of power, as assistance could just as easily be provided by someone who did not require approval by the state.

    I agree with Exit International. Provided consent is informed and given freely, the choice of assistant should be for the individual to make, not the government.

  16. David; The doctor assisting was only intended to be one option. For others to assist, I think there needs to be some sort of recorded ‘statement of intent’ to protect them, as it is standard in the case of suicide for a police investigation to be done. But yes you are right in what you say.

    Sorry I can’t stay longer, I’m hosting a party for visiting Paulists who don’t want to vote for McCain over on RWL.

  17. Each person has the responsibility to live. It’s worrying that people do not value their lives. A doctor should not have any influence of a person’s mental health when giving out bad news. Would they have committed suicide if they have not known of their medical illness? I would believe it was shocking to them and they behaved irrationally.
    Suicide Prevention in Your Life

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