Australia Assisted Suicide Advocate Caren Jenning Kills Herself to Avoid Jail

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 21, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Assisted Suicide Advocate Caren Jenning Kills Herself to Avoid Jail

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 21
, 2008

Canberra, Australia ( — Assisted suicide advocate Caren Jenning has taken her own life rather than go to jail following a decision finding her guilty of manslaughter. Jenning was charged in a controversial euthanasia-murder case when she and her friend pleaded guilty in a New South Wales Supreme Court to murdering Graeme Wylie.

The women had refused offers from prosecutors to plead guilty to assisted suicide and, as a result, the jury found them guilty of manslaughter.

Jenning and her friend were accused of following the advice of Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke, who suggested they give Wylie, who suffered from dementia, a lethal dose of Nembutal. They reportedly imported the drug from Mexico and used it in his death.

Jenning, a former NSW representative of the euthanasia group Exit International, had hoped to use the case to overturn Australian law against assisted suicides and to establish that so-called mercy killings are compassionate and should be legal.

The Australian newspaper indicated Jenning’s body was found at her home in Sydney’s Lane Cove Friday.

A statement released by euthanasia advocacy group Exit International said Jenning "died peacefully from an overdose of the barbiturate Nembutal,” that had been used in the euthanasia case.

Nitschke, who discussed Jenning’s decision with her over a "final dinner" last week, said she saw no alternative.

"She knew that if she did get a custodial sentence, she couldn’t just nip home and end her life," he said. "She said over and over: ‘I am not going to die in prison’."

In June, Jenning’s daughter Kate said that her mother might not live to be sentenced; she had not discussed taking her life with her; and it was unlikely her mother would commit suicide. Nitschke said Jenning had informed friends and family about her decision.

Alex Schadenberg, the chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, previously commented on the case and said it emphasizes two important issues.

"The euthanasia lobby is not really concerned about consent. Even someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia can be killed, even when consent is not possible," he said.

"The second point is that the euthanasia lobby is not concerned with the health of their victims. They are only concerned with a change in the law, and once the law is changed, they are really concerned with facilitating death," he added.

To validate his point, he noted Oregon’s assisted suicide law and indicated the state health department’s law report showed none of the 49 assisted suicide deaths in 2007 were first referred to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

That’s required by the law when the doctor suspects possible depression or mental issues.

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