Do people deserve the right to die?

The right to choose when and how to die is just as important as freedom of speech, an elderly Hobart man says.

John Palmer, 84, is lobbying for the drug Nembutal, a barbiturate used for euthanasia, to be legalised in a bill of human rights.

In Hobart today, the Federal Government’s Human Rights Consultation Committee is gauging public opinion on the need for a legal document to protect rights.

Mr Palmer believes a bill of rights is necessary, particularly one that legalises Nembutal.

He said he was not suffering any life-threatening terminal illnesses but was simply getting old and was more aware of death.

“I’m furious with the politicians for saying when we can or cannot die,” he said.

“I firmly believe that we should have the right to have a peaceful death at a time and in a way of choice.

“It’s the most basic of human rights.”

Mr Palmer said he had watched several friends die terrible deaths because of terminal illness and he wanted to be able to choose a peaceful death.

“I want to have Nembutal in our bathroom cupboard so when the day comes, we can take it and die. We’d feel better just knowing it was there,” he said.

“My wife doesn’t want to survive me and I don’t want to survive her, and this will ensure that doesn’t happen and we can die in each other’s arms.”

According to Australian Lawyers Alliance president Clara Davis says “few people realise that rights such as freedom of speech and association are not poperly protected in the country and will not be unless people tell the Government that they should be protected.”

Nembutal was taken off the Australian market as a sleeping drug in 1998 and is available only to veterinarians for animals to die by euthanasia.

From The Mercury

22 Responses

  1. “freedom of speech and association are not popery protected”

    You’re not having a go at the caped crusader, “Mighty Mitre Man”…are you, Reb???

    I’ve always had a problem with being told what to do by governments in reference to my body and mind.

    If I get terminally ill I will choose the time and method of my demise!

  2. “If I get terminally ill I will choose the time and method of my demise!”

    Why wait until the last minute?

  3. What, and deny the world my unlimited wisdom?

    You must hate mankind, Tom.

  4. “Why wait until the last minute?” Lol, Tom. Wicked.

    I guess like the old song goes: “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die…”

    Still, like scaper implies, if I was rotting slowly and dying by inches in agony, it might not be a question of choosing whether I want to die at all. I might be a question, rather, of whether I want the option to end it-all painlessly.

    And I can’t see why any pollie (or sky-pilot in a funny hat, for that matter) should have the right to deny me that choice.

  5. In 2 recent examples for me a friend of mine plus an uncle of mine died coincidentally of bowel cancer within about 3 months of each other.

    Both died in hospital but didnt really suffer as such as the morphine levels had to be so high that both of them eventually just fell asleep and a few days later stopped breathing.

    So it ended up more or less like a drug overdose than death by cancer although obviously it was.

  6. Walrus,

    A friend of mine who died of cancer last year at home was given enough supplies of morphine to kill several horses five times over.

    Basically, the doctors were giving him the right and flexibility to end his own life at a time of his choosing.

    It seems to be the “right to lifers” that are the most vocal against legalised euthanasia.

  7. To me it would be a matter of saving loved ones the pain of watching my slow deterioration.

    If it was also combined with dementia I would expect my instructions to be followed…that is where the problem lies!

  8. “dementia?”

    what do you mean “if?”

  9. Hey Reb, you beat Tom to the punch!

    This could lead to a demarcation dispute, you’re in for it now!

  10. Did someone change the title of this post? I could have sworn it said ‘Some people deserve to die’. Such a change couldn’t have been at the request of someone who found it offensive – the precedent for that kind of thing has already been set.

    P.S. The URL still has the original title:

  11. Yes.

  12. The right to choose when and how to die

    When and How?. The when, by and large, is rarely infringed because one can always leap from a tall building, douse the body with inflammable liquids, turn on the gas or whatever. (Not that I recommend any of the above),

    The real question comes down to whether one should have the right to choose the how.

    While some, or perhaps most, want nature to take its course, I find that rationale simply barbaric. FGS, we euthanize animals to put them out of their misery but some want humans to die a slow and painful death.

    Not civilised!

  13. TOSY@ 6:41pm

    It is no doubt all a part of The Vast Leftwing Conspiracy.

  14. It is no doubt all a part of The Vast Leftwing Conspiracy.


  15. The real question comes down to whether one should have the right to choose the how.

    Yes, there is a drug that is painless, reliable and brings about a most peaceful death – Nembutal, but the people who insist on controlling our lives have made it illegal for anyone but vets to have it.

    The most common methods of suicide are gunshot and hanging – but are they dignified, reliable and civilised?

    With the rise of Christianity, however, suicide came to be viewed as a sin (a violation of the sixth commandment). As Lisa Lieberman writes in her book Leaving You, all of a sudden ‘the Roman ideal of heroic individualism’ was replaced ‘with a platonic concept of submission to divine authority’. Christianity changed society’s view of suicide from the act of a responsible person, to an infringement upon the rights of God. One’s death became a matter of God’s will, not one’s own and it was at this point that penalties were first established for those who attempted suicide…

    …In early 2006, the Australian Government took another extraordinary step, making it a crime for adults to talk openly about end of life issues using the telephone, email, fax or Internet. The Suicide Related Materials Act (2006) is a law without parallel. It is because of these deliberate attempts by the State to further restrict, control and censor end of life information that The
    Peaceful Pill Handbook has been written. In Australia we have no constitutional right to free speech…

    (I can’t reference this book as it is illegal to possess it).

  16. (I can’t reference this book as it is illegal to possess it).


  17. Yes, really.

    It is illegal in Australia to loan, display, sell and even possess a copy of The Peaceful Pill Handbook.

  18. Wow. Philip Ruddock and Stephen Conroy: Book burners.

  19. Nature 5, on May 4th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Rain away, the Murray-Darling could use the water unless someone very much like Neil is still trying to fill it with the money illusion instead; but I ‘get’ your point about representative democracy not being a direct or participatory democracy per se, and had considered that situation as a (de-)constructive part of the ‘common-sense’ to be questioned in the hypothetical.

    Tony, on May 4th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Fair points both, and it’s lovely musing about preferred hypotheticals, but what’s your practical solution? A referendum on anything which might be construed an issue of conscience?

    I was more musing about a permanent, rolling plebiscite of sorts, where each individual consults their own conscience and casts their own vote in their own stead on select matters of personal conscience as and when those situations arise for themselves; more along the lines of the legislature leaving the field of conscience and liberty open to those they would govern, instead of, arguably, covering the open field over with (over-)legislation and (over-)regulation in a way which reflects the fiction of their select combined individual consciences being even a good substitute. As I initially was musing, if a Parliament wants to flag something for themselves as explicitly requiring a ‘conscience vote’, then it’s possibly the signal kind of thing best left to the individual consciences of the governed to exercise an also not unimportant ‘conscience vote’ of their own, except insofar as it does or might require legislative imprimatur to enliven the possibility of their doing so, which is also within the existing capacity of a legislature to do.

  20. Legion, on May 5th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Legion the ‘democracy’ we have is certainly less than optimal, particularly if greater, more-informed opinion is the goal.

    Obviously, I provided ‘escape clauses’, most of which fit under the ‘more-informed’ label. The truth is that most of the ‘governed’ prefer the security of the Cave, to use Plato’s Allegory. (Not sure the best link but I’ll use this one as an introduction because the ‘graphic’ illustrates the concept reasonably well

    While I deplore this apathy about ‘informed’ democratic participation, I think there are missed opportunities, (or threats), re the technological possibilities for the ‘informed’ and ‘interested’ to participate. While I am unsure as to the mechanisms that might be used, I think it’s fair to say that for democracy to be enhanced then we need to go beyond polling based on what the ‘unwashed’ think. Lol.

    What say thou?

  21. Nature 5, on May 5th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Nature 5, on May 5th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Mmmm…I haven’t formed any final resolutions, N5… just flipping the ideas around. I was thinking my response belonged over on this thread because it’s somewhat related in at least two ways to the topic of the thread, and to a consideration of what democracy means, beyond its routinised and institutionalised aspects, which is what is normally taken for the ‘democratic’ in conceptualising democracy as something ‘thingified’ and visibly ‘concentrated’ in/through those routines and institutions, and not as something more intrinsically reflexive and diffusive within and amongst a demos.

    First, is how those operating through those institutions and routines conceive of a constitutive demos. The existing century-and-a-bit-old technology, here, is arguably out-of-step with the increased capacities of persons to make informed decisions for, and on behalf, of themselves in complex matters relating to their personal circumstances, possibly enhanced through dint of emergence of mass education and mass information sources. An available technology to combat the potential infantilisation of the demos, or parts of it, would be a ‘bill of rights’; if not Parliament exercising its existing technology to recognise when it might be doing so and to vacate those fields in favour of citizens making their own informed decisions as of right.

    Second, is the issue of the apparent top-down model of decision-making in the existing system, and for a two-party system, the imbuing of legitimacy for circumscribed, still top-down agenda once every few years, without any real ability for a ‘child-like’ demos to affect their ongoing daily circumstances betwixt, between and across times, except insofar as they may choose between which of the two squabbling divorced parents, and their agenda, they’d like ‘in charge’ of the ‘cave home’ periodically. Like you, if I understand you aright, I tend to think that there are both appreciable opportunities and threats (not just for and to the demos as a whole, but to those who particularly would have the shades be cast one way or another, in a situation to which they have become, and would have all others become, accustomed) in more citizen participation, and especially in the instance of a citizenry somehow empowered to exercise formal and substantive initiative and origination in doing so, not just (in)formal, pre-selected participations in pre-established sub-routines.

    And, having tentatively mulled over the similarities and differences between ‘’ and ‘’, at least as a hypothetical, I’m somewhat liking the idea of the latter, also, with relevant thresholds and safeguards in place.

  22. Nature 5, on May 5th, 2009 at 9:12 pm What say thou?

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