Australia Lawmaker Gives Speech With Explicit Assisted Suicide Instructions

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 31
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — An Australia lawmaker made good on her promise to deliver a speech with explicit instruction on how disabled or elderly patients can kill themselves. The speech was designed to get around an Australian law that prohibits disseminating assisted suicide or euthanasia instructions over the Internet or phone.

Because South Australian Democrat Sandra Kanck is protected by legislative privileges, her speech can be posted online, including on the legislature’s web site.

Kanck gave the explanations during a speech to the South Australian Parliament. Lasting about half an hour the speech gave specific details about equipment, substances and services available to someone who wants to kill themselves or find help doing it.

During the speech, Kanck, a member of South Australia’s Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a pro-euthanasia group, said the laws were an unfair restriction on free speech.

"The effect of this odious legislation will be to force desperate people to commit suicide by the most appalling of means," she claimed.

She claimed people wanting to kill themselves would not find out how to do so, even though her speech gave exact instructions.

"People looking for simple ways to end their lives by accessing this speech are not going to find them," she said.

However, speaking for the Catholic Church, Melbourne Bishop Christopher Prowse condemned the speech. He called it "bizarre and irresponsible."

"It would give encouragement to people who are already very fragile to look at options which aren’t options at all," he said. "They are only despairing cries for help."

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal agreed and said the speech was an abuse of the parliamentary privileges given to lawmakers.

After the speech, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said that anyone who killed themselves as a result of Kanck’s speech would make her have blood on her hands. According to a report in The Advertiser, he said he would work to make sure her speech was not posted on the parliamentary web site.

“I have been in Parliament for nearly 21 years and also been around Parliament for nearly 30," he said. "I have never seen anything more shameless or shameful.”

Normally an individual can be fined $110,000 and an organization $500,000 for spreading assisted suicide or euthanasia information on how to kill someone.