On 27 February, 2014, Amanda Collins’ father shot himself in the backyard of the family home, whilst her mother was in the kitchen. Robin Collins’ body lay on a patch of grass for about 30 minutes before the police arrived.
On the death certificate it stated that Robin Collins, aged 73, had died of a gunshot wound. Amanda points out that in reality, her father was “several excruciating weeks” away from dying from myelofibrosis, a form of blood cancer. By the time he shot himself, Robin Collins’ spleen had gotten so big he couldn’t breathe, sit or lie comfortably and his stomach was also compressed, which meant he could not take in much food. If he had not killed himself, Robin would have eventually starved to death.
Figures from the Victorian Coroners Court suggest that 240 people who experienced “irreversible decline” in their physical health took their own life between 2009 and 2013. Coroner Caitlin English told the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Into End-of-life Choices that “These are people who are suffering from irreversible physical terminal decline or disease, and they are taking their lives in desperate, determined and violent ways.”
Dr Rodney Syme (pictured) estimates that he has counselled about 1800 people about end-of-life matters, and now receives “about three to four approaches a week” for advice. “Most doctors run a mile before they engage in an honest, open discussion with all the cards on the table …The great thing this legislation will do is open the gates to broad discussion between doctors and patients about the end of life, and as a result, many of those people who might otherwise end their lives as the Coroner has described will not do so” Syme says.
Click for article in The Age 8 October 2017 ‘ ‘Backyard euthanasia’: the shocking cases that could change the law‘
The grim reality is reflected in the Australian Bureau of Statistic suicide data, which shows men aged 85 and older suicide at the rate of almost 40 in every 100,000, partly due to terminal and incurable illnesses. Philosopher and ethicist, Chris Fotinopoulos (pictured), argues that “…With the absence of a legal framework there is in no real way of gauging whether people like my neighbour were of sound mind and free from coercion. And there is no reliable way of knowing if those who died by their own hand were depressed, confused, had second thoughts, or in desperate need of counsel….If we want the elderly and the terminally ill to live out their life free of violence and the tyranny of mandatory suffering, then we need to encourage our politicians to enact laws that offer a far more humane alternative to unspeakable acts of suicide.” Click for On-line Opinion 27 October 2017 “An end to unspeakable acts of violence” by Chris Fotinopoulos