lessen pain and suffering’. While he was speaking in the context of palliative care patients, the point is a good one.
For an older person, simply having Nembutal at home in the cupboard ‘just in case’ or as an ‘insurance policy for the future’ is a great comfort. And this is what Suzy Austen has always said of Annemarie. Any assistance she may have rendered was so that Annemarie felt back in control and reassured.
Legislating for the End of Life
Over the years, legislation has attempted to bring clarity and order to the issue of assisted suicide. By defining the class of person who can be helped to die (the terminally ill) and by stipulating the manner in which this help can be provided (a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor), laws aim to provide guidance via their uniformity and equity.
However, despite more than 20 years of law-making around the world, remarkably little has changed. For example, a person must be ‘terminally ill’ or have ‘unrelievable suffering’ to qualify for help under most laws. This means that strict criteria must be satisfied before a person can ask a doctor for help to die. Even in the Netherlands - arguably a world leader on the issue - eligibility is tightly controlled (which leads many people miss out). And the process of qualification can be arduous.
In Australia in 1996, for example, a terminally ill person had to obtain two medical opinions, a palliative care review and a psychiatric consultation before they could qualify to use The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. In practice, this meant that very sick people had to jump through hoops in order to qualify to use the ROTI law.