BreakPoint: Assisted Suicide and Manipulating the Vulnerable

A Cautionary Tale from Down Under

No matter what advocates claim, in the end, assisted suicide will eventually lead to the most vulnerable among us being pressured to die.

Graham Morant, a 68-year-old man from Australia, was recently convicted by a Queensland court and sentenced to ten years in prison. His crime was counseling his wife to commit suicide.

Morant is believed to be the first person in Australia to ever be convicted for doing this. Which means that Morant’s other “offense” was that he was guilty of being Australian instead of Belgian or Dutch.

Here’s the story: In 2014, 56-year-old Jennifer Morant was found dead in her car alongside a gas generator. A note found nearby read “Please don’t resuscitate me.” Jennifer Morant had suffered from chronic back pain, depression, and anxiety. Her husband claimed she had twice attempted suicide before the attempt that was, tragically, successful.

The police were suspicious of her husband’s story from the start, and the more they learned of the back story, the more it began to unravel. Mrs. Morant, it turned out, was “fearful for her life,” and her husband had encouraged her to kill herself.

Why? For the money. According to her sister, Jennifer Morant had, at her husband’s behest, taken out life insurance policies that totaled $1 million. He also told her that with the money he could build a commune where he and other people could wait out the rapture.

Most damning of all was that Morant admitted to helping his wife purchase at a hardware store what she needed to commit suicide.

In early October, Morant was found guilty of both assisting his wife to commit suicide and counseling her to do so. According to the judge, Morant “took advantage of her vulnerability as a sick and depressed woman.”

This case has drawn world-wide coverage, even in Saudi Arabia. And rightfully so: Morant’s actions were despicable.

At the same time, there’s more than a little irony in the attention the story is getting. If you set aside your feelings about Graham Morant, his crime consisted of persuading a vulnerable woman to take her life, and then helping her do it.

In other words, he’s guilty of the kind of thing that’s become routine in places like Belgium and the Netherlands where, as we have repeatedly told you, the “right to die” is morphing into the “duty to die.” Contrary to the way doctor-assisted suicide is portrayed in much of the world, people do not need to be terminally ill to be eligible for physician-assisted suicide.

Instead, the criteria are vague weasel-words like “suffering” and “hopeless,” words which, despite how much sympathy they might elicit are completely subjective. In fact, they are so subjective that even depression can satisfy the legal requirements.

Never mind that one of the symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness in which the sufferer cannot imagine things getting better, whether or not the feeling is actually true. And, it isn’t only depression: Two years ago, a man in the Netherlands was euthanized because he feared he could never overcome his alcoholism.

If Jennifer Morant had been across the globe, her combination of depression and chronic pain would have easily “qualified” for physician-assisted suicide- not only in the Low Countries, but, arguably, also in Canada where the criteria for choosing to end one’s life is “a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual.”

And if the pressuring and manipulation by Morant’s husband disturbs us, which it should, please know that in the Netherlands people are euthanized despite physically resisting the fatal injection.

Like with abortion, our cultural thinking about suicide is fraught with inconsistencies. Increasingly, we’re okay with sick and vulnerable people being medically and financially manipulated into ending their lives, but  are shocked and horrified when someone not wearing a white coat does it.

In the U. S., six states and the District of Columbia permit physician assisted suicide, and it’s spreading. So Morant’s story should be spread too…widely, with everyone you can.

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