The link between suicide and mental illness has not been clearly established- some psychiatrists say 20% of patients who attempt suicide are mentally, others 100%.
This debate is a very serious one, and comes down to whether or not we believe the government has the right to decide whether someone lives. Suicide is currently illegal in Australia.
One of the most convincing arguments for suicide legalisation I heard from Philip Nitschke on 'Enough Rope':
ANDREW DENTON: The question is the danger that a young person, someone in the middle age, someone who’s not 80 may go through a depressive episode, and I, I think what you said there that seems to be what is the hardest bit about your cause to sell, which is for those that oppose you, for you to say well there’ll be some people that may unfortunately take it. That’s very easy for those that are opposed to stand up and say — “Here is a man that is prepared to sacrifice some lives to help some others.”
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Yeah, well look I mean the safest position I guess when you say ‘my causek’ I mean, if we argue for legislation, you’re not going to have anything like that. I’m saying something much broader than that. I’m saying everyone over the age of 65 should have access to these drugs. Now that’s not a particularly popular position, and there’s a lot of argument about that. People that would support the idea of legislation will not support the idea of wide, wide access to these lethal drugs by the broader or older population and I can see why that is. And I mean I’m not, I mean, I’m arguing the case for it because I think it’s a, it’s a, uh it would be a benefit for society. But what I really think would be a benefit for society is the introduction of legislation. That is absolutely safe.
ANDREW DENTON: I want to take you back to 2002, Perth woman, Lisette Nigot.
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Yeah.
ANDREW DENTON: An amazing documentary that was made about her decision to take her own life, with advice, assistance from Dr Nitschke. This was called ‘Mademoiselle and the Doctor’. We’ll show a little bit of that first.
ANDREW DENTON: Now, she said it there. She didn’t want to be 80. She’d had enough. She was tired of life, and you said you tried to talk her out of it. What can you say to try and talk someone out of that situation?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: It seemed a bit strange to me but at some point I think we have to accept the fact that when intelligent, articulate, rational people make decisions that we don’t like, doesn’t mean we come along and try and impose on them our own views. And I said to some, look at her life and say “For God’s sake, Lisette, you’ve got a lot you can give.” And she said “No, I want, now is the time for me to die.” And so I found myself giving ground and giving ground and it was only when I started to give ground that our relationship started to improve. And so we actually did have a very good relationship in those last months, as I just said “Well, it’s unusual.” It was an interesting lady. It split the voluntary euthanasia movement across Australia, across the world in some ways, because people say you shouldn’t be dealing with people like this. And I was saying “Well, this is much broader than simply talking about help for very sick people. We’re really talking about whether people have a right to control that life or not.”
ANDREW DENTON: Do you understand why there are those who oppose you so fiercely, who feel so emotional about this issue, are so confronted by the thought that someone like Lisette at 80 would choose to kill herself simply because she wasn’t interested in living anymore?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: The thing that irks me most about people who oppose this issue is that they are quite keen to shove their worldview down other people’s throats. Now I don’t care if people want to have the most difficult protracted painful death they want. Good on them. That’s if they want to do it that’s fine. I will support them. I will give them access to the best medical treatment. They can sit there on a ventilator for as long as they like, but don’t come along and tell me to do it. Lisette wasn’t trying to tell everyone else that they have to die at the age of 80. She was simply saying that I want to die at the age of 80. Now why do we come as a society and judge her on this?
ANDREW DENTON: I want to show you something from Four Corners of, from May this year. This is a thing called ‘The Peanut Project.’
ANDREW DENTON: What is ‘The Peanut Project’?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Well, it’s a group of people that set out to say we want access to the best drug and of course the easiest way to do that is to travel overseas and buy it from Mexico. But these people have said “We want to work out whether we can do it ourselves.” And they’ve had a series of successes. In fact, some very recent success, where they’ve been able to go down that path of making the drug themselves. They say well…
ANDREW DENTON: And this is happening in Australia? They’re doing this…
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Yeah , that’s right.
ANDREW DENTON: This is outside the law.
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Yes, it’s not a, it’s not a legal process to sit down and make yourself Nembutal.
ANDREW DENTON: And how many taking the trek to Mexico?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Oh we’re getting, we’re getting one a one a week. We’ve got a tour going over to Mexico soon. We don’t, we don’t all, we don’t all meet down at Kingsford Smith airport, the Nembutal tour to Mexico, but…
ANDREW DENTON: Just imagine ‘The Women’s Weekly End it All Now Tour.’
"...if people get themselves to San Diego at a certain date, which we give them, we make sure that they’ve got the best information, the most recent packaging, the places to go to so they can make that little two hour trip across the border into Tijuana, and come back with the drug."
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Exactly. But if people get themselves to San Diego at a certain date, which we give them, we make sure that they’ve got the best information, the most recent packaging, the places to go to so they can make that little two hour trip across the border into Tijuana, and come back with the drug.
ANDREW DENTON: You run suicide seminars for those that that wish to learn about things like ‘The Peanut Project.’ You believe it’s the right of people that to be able to choose how to control how they die. Is it OK for someone who’s perfectly healthy to come to these workshops?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: They’re mostly healthy. I mean, mostly we restrict age. You’ve got to be over a certain age to come along.
ANDREW DENTON: Which is?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Oh 65. We have had, we’ve had, we’ve had exceptions with various good reasons. Or you could be a person who’s ill, but most people are well 65 and over, over age group.
ANDREW DENTON: And there they’re given what sort of information?
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Well, pretty much it’s a, it’s an environment where they can ask any questions they like. And I mean with the new laws in Australia it’s actually a crime now to talk on the telephone about this particular issue, but in a workshop environment we can talk openly about methods.
more at http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/tra ... 094728.htm
METHOD OF SUICIDE
In 2005 the most frequent method of suicide was hanging (including strangulation and suffocation) which was used in half (51%) of all suicide deaths. Poisoning by drugs was used in 12% and poisoning by other methods (including by motor vehicle exhaust) was used in 16% of suicide deaths. Methods using firearms accounted for 7% of suicide deaths. The remaining group (Other) comprised 14% of suicide deaths and included deaths from drowning, jumping from a high place, and other methods. Suicide deaths using firearms have more than halved over the last ten years, from 389 deaths in 1995, to 147 deaths in 2005. See Table 5 for data on broad groupings of method of suicide.
There are about 2000 suicides each year in Australia at present.
More info http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mf/3309.0/