Australian State Officials Review Mental Health Guidelines After Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 8, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australian State Officials Review Mental Health Guidelines After Assisted Suicide

RSS Newsfeed Email article
Add to My Yahoo! Printer friendly

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 8
, 2008

Perth Australia ( — Officials in the state of Western Australia are reviewing mental health guidelines and treatment of patients following an assisted suicide there. Three sisters of a woman there are accused of doing nothing to preventing her from following instructions in an assisted suicide book to take her life.

Erin Berg, a 39-year-old mother of four, committed suicide in Mexico using a popular new method of taking Nembutal, an animal drug recommended by Australian euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke.

Berg had only recently been discharged from a mental health ward in Perth and allegations have cropped up that the facility treating Berg and her three sisters all knew of her suicide plans and did nothing to stop her.

The Australian newspaper indicates Berg suffered from post-natal depression and that she took her life on May 10 after purchasing the drug in Tijuana, a Mexico-U.S. border town near California.

The paper indicates state Health Minister Jim McGinty is concerned about the "very fundamental issues" raised in the case.

"It was a tragic case and I think I’ve now got a good understanding of what transpired," Mr McGinty told The Australian after a meeting with Berg’s sisters. "The case has raised a number of very fundamental issues relating to patient privacy and the circumstances when that ought to be breached."

He said state guidelines and laws should be reviewed with regard to mental health patients.

American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith commented on the case and he said one of the larger issues is the influence Nitschke has in Australia and New Zealand with his assisted suicide promotionals.

"Philip Nitschke is a hero of the assisted suicide movement and a strident advocate for unlimited suicide on demand," he said. "Toward that end, he spends his days creating suicide concoctions (the so-called peaceful pill), holding how-to-commit suicide workshops, and writing instructions that teach the depressed how to make themselves dead."

Smith says assisted suicide advocates are wrong if they think legalizing the grisly practice will better regulate it.

"Assisted suicide advocates say that if only we would legalize assisted suicide for the few, these kind of deaths could be avoided because the killing would be regulated and there would be transparency," he said.

"The opposite is true. Once we legalize assisted suicide, we turn killing as an answer to the problems of human suffering into a norm and the swath grows," he explained.


Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.