AUSTRALIA/ Assisted suicide: Is it just in the interest of the patient?
The Supreme Court in Brisbane, Australia, sentenced Merin Nielsen, a 50 year old man, to three years in jail for helping a cancer patient he knew to take his own life. The judge found him guilty of having procured Frank Ward, 76, with a fatal dose of Nembrutal, a veterinary anesthetic purchased in Mexico. There were also suspicions surrounding the fact that Nielsen was indebted to Ward and was the beneficiary of his will. The case in Australia has sparked a lively debate, just as in another country, the Netherlands, where euthanasia is a possibility for Prince Johan Friso van for Oranjen. The second son of Queen Beatrix is in a coma after an avalanche hit him while he was off-piste skiing in Austria. The media in the Netherlands has launched a fierce debate on whether to keep the prince alive. Ilsussidiario.net interviewed Lyle Shelton, chief of staff of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), to ask what is at stake in the cultural battles on issues like assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Frank Ward was a member of the pro-euthanasia association Exit International. Do you think that this is sufficient proof of his willingness to end his life?
Frank Ward's memberships of Exit International could be interpreted in several different ways. In sentencing Merin Nielson, Justice Jean Dalton said that Mr. Ward wanted to "take his own life should circumstances amount, in his view, to a situation where he was no longer independent or no longer
had quality of life".
If Frank Ward was truly consensual, do you think that this could exonerate Merin Nielson or that he is still guilty?
No, in the ACL's view and understanding of the legal process in Queensland, Mr. Nielson is still guilty of aiding the suicide of Mr. Ward whether it was consensual or not. However, whether it was consensual or not would likely have been a consideration in Justice Dalton's sentencing of Mr. Nielson.
Is the fact that Nielson was in debt to Ward and a beneficiary of his will an extraneous fact or do you think that it could have influenced his choice to aid in Ward's suicide?
Yes, the fact that Mr. Nielson was a beneficiary of Mr. Ward's will would lead one to be suspicious about Mr. Nielson's motives in helping Mr. Ward. When sentencing, Justice Dalton said it was relevant that Mr. Nielson was a beneficiary of Mr. Ward's will and there was no evidence of the seriousness of the older man's illness - nor its prognosis or treatment.