Australian Police Decision Could Help Legalize "Mercy Killing"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australian Police Decision Could Help Legalize "Mercy Killing"

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29, 2004

Queensland, Australia ( — Police in Queensland, Australia have decided not to charge those who helped an elderly woman kill herself two years ago.

Advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia are celebrating the decision, saying that it will help their campaign to legalize so-called "mercy killing."

In May of 2002, 69-year-old Nancy Crick swallowed a lethal mix of barbiturates and Irish liqueur as 21 people looked on.

Crick, who had been an outspoken advocate of euthanasia, said at the time that she wanted to take her life to end her suffering.

However, an autopsy later revealed that Crick, who had battled bowel cancer, was cancer-free at the time of her death.

After receiving word that the police would not press charges in the case, Crick’s son Daryle said, "My own mother’s death was lovely. It was just beautiful. She didn’t want anyone to get in trouble and no one is."

Queensland police said they would not pursue criminal charges because of a lack of evidence. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson told the Australian press that the investigation had been hindered because witnesses to Crick’s suicide refused to cooperate.

"They didn’t want to be interviewed by us and refused to be interviewed by us," Atkinson told members of the press. "I’m not in a position to say to you that any of the people who were present when Mrs. Crick took her own life assisted her to do that or specifically did not assist her to do that. What I’m saying is that we don’t have sufficient evidence for a charge
against any person."

However, Atkinson did not rule out the prospect of pursuing charges in the future if additional information surfaced about the circumstances surrounding Crick’s death.

Under Queensland law, anyone aiding a suicide faces life in prison.

Atkinson also indicated that the Crick case would not set a precedent. He said that if a similar incident occurred in the future, police would be required to investigate.

Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke told the Australian press that the decision not to press charges reflected "common sense." However, numerous studies indicate that people who ask for assistance in ending their lives are often suffering from depression.

A number of medical experts say that many suicides could be prevented through better treatment for depression and enhanced pain control.

Meanwhile, pro-life leaders say they’re disappointed with the decision not to press criminal charges against those who helped Crick commit suicide.

"We believe that this does not help to make things clear at all. We believe there should have been a prosecution so it could have been shown whether or not being present when somebody kills himself is an offense or not," said Graham Preston of Right to Life Australia.

Queensland Right to Life —