In the course of Philip Nitschke’s involvement with this law, it quickly became apparent that none of his four patients would have used the law had they had a ‘Peaceful Pill’ at home in the cupboard. Why would you subject yourself to a compulsory psychiatric examination, if you already had the means to a peaceful, dignified death? You would simply wait till the time was right and then take the Pill from your cupboard at home. The very laws that are supposed to empower sick people can end up doing the exact opposite: denying an individual control when it counts most.
And then there are those people who will never qualify for an assisted suicide. Frailty from old age and a feeling that one’s life is now ‘completed’ is a quite different thing to having terminal cancer. Unless the criteria of ‘completed life’ or ‘tired of life’ is included in an assisted suicide law, there can be no lawful assistance.
Finally, while some people may wish to involve the medical profession in their deaths, many others do not. Our point at Exit is that death need not be a medical event. Indeed it should not be assumed that the medical profession is best placed for the role of arbiter at all: why should doctors (and not people themselves) decide who gets the right to die with dignity, and who does not?
(An extensive discussion of Exit’s philosophy of death and dying can be found in Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill (Penguin, 2005) (and available on Amazon).