Deaths by euthanasia and assisted suicide in the state of Victoria, Australia, have almost doubled in the region since their legalization. Victoria is home to one of the world’s harshest lockdown regimes.
A compulsory bi-annual report put forth by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board (VADRB) detailed activity from July 1 to December 31, 2020 (the law came into effect June 19, 2019). It stated the following, “the number of practitioner administration permits issued increased by 31.6 per cent, and the number of confirmed deaths from practitioner administration increased by 81.8 per cent.”
This was a significant increase from the previous six months in Victoria. The report displayed bullet-point headings with the following information:
- access to voluntary assisted dying [sic] has grown
- the number of medical practitioners involved continues to grow
- the Statewide Pharmacy Service experienced greater demand [for deadly drugs]
- applications were rarely withdrawn due to the applicant deciding not to proceed
- compliance with the Act remains high
According to the Australian Care Alliance, “The total number of deaths by euthanasia or assistance to suicide in July to December 2020 was 94 – almost double the 49 deaths by these means in July to December 2019…This represents 0.45% of all deaths in Victoria in July-December 2020. It took Oregon twenty years for deaths from legalised assistance to suicide to reach that rate.”
VADRB was quick to claim that the increase in people killing themselves had nothing to do with the Wuhan coronavirus or the region’s draconian shutdown.
“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the Victorian community,” the VADRB report said. “However, there are no reasons or criteria related to coronavirus (COVID-19) that would result in a voluntary assisted dying application. The data shows that people continued to request access to voluntary assisted dying despite the restrictions placed on Victorians.”
One of the provisions of the euthansia law when it first passed was that requests for euthanasia must be made by the patient only and could not be initiated by practitioners: “Health practitioners are forbidden from initiating a discussion about euthanasia or suggesting it as an option to a patient. The first request must come from the patient themselves, without any interference.”
However, it seems that the VADRB – which supposedly “oversees the safe operation” of the new law – is not following guidelines.
“The Board ignores these matters in its advice urging Victorians when first given a terminal diagnosis to start thinking about obtaining a lethal poison to commit suicide or arranging for a doctor to give them a lethal injection,” wrote Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “There is a callousness to this advice that disregards important issues.”
“Naturally many people suffer from depression when first given a terminal diagnosis. Is this really the right moment to be encouraging a person to think about suicide or euthanasia?” Schadenberg noted.
Not everybody in Australia is on board with assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Australian Medical Association Tasmania issued a statement in December 2020 opposing a similar bill in the island state of Tasmania called the Tasmanian End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) bill.
“Physician Assisted Suicide is a form of euthanasia in which the deliberate ending of a patient’s life is intentionally undertaken or facilitated by a medical practitioner,” the doctors wrote. “Physician assisted patient suicide is not a medical procedure and it is not part of acceptable medical practice according to the World Medical Association, the Australian Medical Association and Palliative Care Australia. Almost all medical societies worldwide (105 of 107) oppose Physician Assisted Suicide.”
If the Tasmanian bill passes into law, it would make Tasmania the third state after Victoria and Western Australia to legalize euthanasia.