By Paul Russell, Director of HOPE Australia
Looking at three recent deaths of public pro-euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates.
It is surely a great strategy: find someone who has a difficult and maybe terminal illness to front the media calling for a change to the law on euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. The job description has a prerequisite of an emotionally charged set of circumstances guaranteed to attract media attention. Executive high-flyers with the world at their feet; good looking newly-wed whose life plans will be tragically cut short; a well-educated and obviously independent older person who wants to ‘rage against the dying of the light’ etc. etc. ad nauseam.
The US story of 2014 of Brittany Maynard was one such tragedy that, in terms of the assisted suicide debate, virtually wrote itself. A vivacious, attractive, newly married young woman struck down by a difficult disease, not wanting to face the inevitability of her illness. Predictably, the US pro-suicide organisation formerly the Hemlock Society – now known as Compassion and Choices, packaged up the story into a media frenzy including petitions and wide editorial support for change. Being the focus of the media can be very seductive, as is the thought that one will be remembered for having championed a cause.