NRL News

The making of a “celebrity” euthanasia case

by | Mar 7, 2016

By Paul Russell, Founder, HOPE Australia

Tony Nicklinson

Tony Nicklinson

Ever wondered how the ‘celebrity’ euthanasia cases become, well, celebrity cases? Some, I imagine are simply place and time occurrences; where a well-meaning person with a terminal illness decides for themselves to use their illness to ‘further a cause’. For some, like UK man, Tony Nicklinson, it is simply about their own demise and, for the likes of Brittany Maynard in the USA last year, it would appear that the media attention can become a drug of addiction.

So, clearly there are those who call up a journalist and want to tell their story. Some, I have observed over the years, have spoken to the media in such a way as to make it clear, to me at least, that they had been coached by pro-euthanasia and assisted suicide campaigners in the right things to say and how to say them.

The pro-euthanasia lobby in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, have gone one step further. They are advertising for sick people who want to become the subject of litigation.

From their website:

“Dying with Dignity ACT Inc. is looking for a person with a 3-5 year life span (sic) who would be interested in being a litigant for us in a case that we would put to the ACT Supreme Court. It would not entail any cost to the litigant but there would likely be medical examinations to confirm the state of health of the litigant. We have a lawyer who would make the case for us along the lines of the case run in Canada which asserted that a competent person who is dying should be able to get assistance to die and that it is a breach of their human rights not to. Please contact the secretary if you are interested in helping us.”

Undoubtedly ‘a person with a 3-5 year life span’ is code for a debilitating and/or terminal illness and ‘life span’ is meant to indicate time left to live (in place of its usual meaning). Certainly, that’s how The Canberra Times interpreted the situation in their coverage.

Spokespersons for the Canberra based pro-euthanasia group told the Canberra Times that they see this as a human rights issue. Others, like Philip Nitschke have made this claim before. That somehow there is a right to die, ergo any government who refuses to legislate is depriving people of said right. But that’s not exactly what these people are saying.

The point of the media statement at this time is to try to [advance] the recent push to overturn the Commonwealth law that prevents the two Australian Territories with limited self-government from legislating for euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. [One is the Northern Territory. The other] is the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – Canberra and its environs. So, the ‘right’ that Canberra’s euthanasia pushers are claiming to litigate for is primarily the ‘right’ for the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory to legislate.

It seems very strange to me that, at the time when the Canberra and Australian press has been reporting widely on this new legislative push to repeal the Commonwealth legislation, that the ACT euthanasia group is virtually admitting defeat of that bill by trumpeting an alternative route!

The news report quotes the leader [Jeanne Arthur ] of the group word-for-word from the website statement:

“We have a lawyer who would make the case for us along the lines of the case in Canada, which asserted that a competent person who is dying should be able to get assistance to die and that it is a breach of their human rights not to.”

The use of the pronoun ‘us’ makes it quite clear that this is not about some sick person seeking a path to relief at all. I find this whole public airing quite bizarre. Surely the very fact that any legal case will now be widely known as a set up will act against them in some way.

The report adds, while the group has been in contact with some potential candidates, that, ‘it was difficult to find one willing to spend their final days in court while suffering.’

“This is really an example of how cruel the current laws are, as someone would have to be put in such a position to try and change the law,” Arthur said. What rot! The law does not put anyone in that position. This ghoulish group puts that person in that position, to which they will no doubt respond, ‘but it is entirely voluntary’.


How will it play out if this dying person finds the court case appearances and the media attention all too much and wants to pull out? There’s a lot more at stake in that scenario than simply the exercise of an unencumbered autonomy. Imagine the pressure to continue!

If that were not enough for anyone to question the legitimacy of this action, the Canberra Times goes on to report the head of the euthanasia group admitting that they had asked doctors to pass on names:

Ms Arthur said her organisation had been in contact with some health professionals – whom she declined to name – about identifying patients who may be willing to become litigants.

“We asked them as nurses dealing with people at the end of life whether they knew anyone who would be interested and they said they were afraid of losing their job,” she said.

“All they needed to do was pass on a name to say they could contact us but they were afraid to do so. That’s how serious this matter is.

Serious indeed because they have been asking doctors to breach their code of ethics and confidentiality guidelines by passing on names. This is outrageous and tells us clearly that the ‘end justifies the means’ is the governing paradigm.

Thankfully, the newspaper gave time to an alternate voice:

Craig Wallace, the Canberra-based convenor of Lives Worth Living, said he supported the territory’s right to legislate but not the existing arguments for euthanasia.

“I have not been persuaded that there are appropriate safeguards or protections in the legislation brought forward that would prevent the creep of euthanasia to disabled people at risk,” he said.

“Many people who acquire disabilities like quadriplegia often think their lives are not worth living but change their minds after receiving proper support.”

Mr Wallace, who is also the president of People with Disability Australia, said euthanasia should not be legalised at a time when many with disabilities felt they are not valued by their community and government.

“I am concerned they will be subject to all kinds of pressures and persuasions,” he said.

In light of all of this, can someone please explain to me how this agenda can ever be claimed to be a “grassroots” issue? It’s not. It has always been about small groups of people, an elite, who drive the agenda.

This is simply another example of that.

Editor’s note. This appeared at

Categories: Euthanasia