Monday, 15 October 2012

Son of MS Sufferer questions culpability of Exit International

The sons of British woman, Anne Veasey who killed herself in August last year after accessing suicide information from Exit International have raised the question of culpability about the Exit website and a visit to their mother by a member of Exit prior to her death.

Their comments were made at the time the Coronial Inquest returned a finding of suicide.
“They told her what she needed to do, how to do it,” said Peter and Michael Twyman, speaking to the Harrogate Advertiser after the inquest.

“If someone gives you a loaded gun and then tells you how to use it - are they not culpable?”
They also told The Telegraph newspaper: "Our mum was quite a woman who had a wicked sense of humour.

"It's worrying that our mum was talking about something so important with a complete stranger. She never mentioned anything to us.

"This organisation is going around promoting the act of people ending their own lives.
"It's abhorrent. My mother still had an active life.

"To encourage a person in that situation is completely inappropriate."

According to the reports, an Exit member, Tom Curran, did visit Anne Veasey, but he denied that he gave her any direct encouragement to kill herself. One report says that he (Curran) helped Mrs Veasey open a package that contained drugs. It is not claimed that this was Chinese Nembutal, but the article infers as much and the Coroner did find that she had ordered the drug online.

Mr Curran told the Harrogate Advertiser that it was foolish to suggest that they (Exit) were in anyway responsible: “She was not the kind of person to be influenced by a website,” he said. “These are the actions of a rational individual who took full responsibility for her own death.”

Dr Nitschke gave his standard response to such claims: “To give people information allows them to make decisions,” adding, “To keep people in the dark to keep them safe is na├»ve. That leaves them to become desperate and desperate people take desperate actions.”

The reality here is that Peter and Michael Twyman’s claims in regards to the culpability of Exit International are most likely unsustainable in law. We can only take Mr Curran at his word – there are, after all, no living witnesses to support or deny his assertion.

In respect to Exit International generally, no court or jurisdiction has sought to explore the possibility of degrees of complicity in respect to assisting in suicide in respect to the kind of advocacy that can be found on the internet, to my knowledge (not just at Exit International’s site I might add.)

But that is not the end of the story. The assertion by Dr Nitschke to the effect that providing information allows for quality decisions and Curran’s assertion that Veasey was acting as a rational individual are open to questioning.

In the weeks prior to her death Anne Veasey had been told that she could no longer stay in the room she had occupied since moving into her care facility because she had defaulted in payment of the ‘top up’ amount (over and above the amount met by the North Yorkshire County Council). One report says that she was “uncontrollably upset” by this news. Whether her intention to suicide was formed at this point seems unlikely, however, it does suggest that there is some reason to question her state of mind at the time she decided to die.

Furthermore, given the fact that her sons knew nothing about her intentions nor about the Exit visits, Nitschke’s claim that providing information is somehow always benign or at best, neutral, don’t hold water.

Mrs Veasey’s right to privacy is, as always, not only necessary but also to be respected. No one doubts that her options were limited, but the provision of a ‘way out’ in circumstances where she faced significant battles cannot be seen as neutral – especially as the person she confided in was clearly an advocate of such an option. But one can only wonder what she might have chosen to do had her immediate accommodation problems been adequately addressed and what she might have done if the ‘Exit option’ were not in her mind at the time.

If, as one might expect, due to the worsening of her condition and the news about her accommodation Mrs Veasey may well have been depressed and somewhat desperate, it is highly likely that her decision making was impaired. To what degree, we cannot know; and we can only guess at what effect the inclusion of her sons in the conversation might have had upon her will to live.

Post Script: The Irish Independent Newspaper has confirmed that the Irish Crown Prosecutor says that they will not proceed to prosecute Mr Curran because there is insufficient evidence against him.

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