It was reported today that the father who appeared to have installed gas cylinders into his family home, killing himself, his wife and two children had obtained a copy of Philip Nitschke’s Peaceful Pill handbook and had made contact with his suicide-advocacy organisation, Exit International.
Originally, Nitschke told The Australian: “We had some contact with them, so we know all about it.” He went on to say: “They knew about carbon monoxide. But it wasn’t the case that they were coming to meetings.”
He has now backtracked, saying that a check of the Exit database revealed it was another person with the same surname who purchased the book.
One is left to question why Nitschke initially told media that EXIT had had “some contact” with the family. Why would he have said that if the only connection between EXIT and the father had been an online purchase of a book? The initial statement – since retracted – appeared to suggest more than just a transactional relationship.
We may never know. And I’m not sure that it’s important, because whether or not Nitschke and his team at Exit had contact with this particular individual, it has demonstrated how a reckless attitude towards human life can end in disaster.
Nitschke told the Australian:
“I mean, people buy the book and we don’t get to know them. And obviously this is a tragedy, although that sounds like I’m critical of them, which I’m not.”
Just let that sink in for a moment. Many Australians fail to understand the “right” to gun ownership in the United States and consider “background checks” to be a good thing; how are we not outraged that information on killing can be so recklessly distributed online? I haven’t tried to purchase the book but I doubt I would have to confirm my identification to do so. That’s reckless.
He went on to say:
“We are not going through the situation they are going through. I agree it’s a tragedy but until you walk in their shoes, it’s very hard to be critical.”
So desensitised is Nitschke to premature death that he cannot even bring himself to criticise the actions of a person who willingly took the lives of innocent children.
But in a sense, I don’t blame the man, because he has been allowed to do this through the failure of prosecutors around the country to stop him. In every state in Australia, aiding or abetting or inciting suicide is a criminal offence (and this includes the providing of advice regarding suicide.) Nitschke has published a book giving people instructions on how to take their own lives and runs seminars on the same topic. Yet the biggest sanction has come not from those charged with upholding the law, but rather from those responsible for regulating the medical industry. Police and prosecutors have done nothing.
And, to quote Australian of the Year David Morrison, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
Monica Doumit, catholicTalk contributor