Last week the UK Mail Online reported the sad case of the tragic suicide of the sixteen year old daughter of a well known and respected Crown Court Judge.
The article says that, "Isobel Narayan, 16, bought a drug used to kill patients by lethal injection on Death Row after suffering a ‘mini crisis of confidence’ a month before her death." This comment is a little vague - perhaps deliberately so - as different US states use different drugs to execute felons. Moreover, death row inmates could hardly be considered as 'patients'.
As is often the case, her father, Harry Narayan said that: ‘There was absolutely nothing which indicated that there was a problem.’
‘There was no clue or indication of what was going through her mind. It’s a strange time of life for teenagers; hormones are raging, there are pressures which we do not recognise when we’re older, and on occasion they do harm themselves.’
The article also mentioned the fact that Ms Narayan 'killed herself after scouring suicide websites then drinking a lethal drug she ordered on the internet.'
"Police examined her computer and discovered that in late October Isobel had begun reading online forums and researching how terminally ill patients could end their own lives.
"They also found a typed a list of reasons why she should end her life.
"At around the same time, the drug was sent to the family home from either America or China."
The Coroner, Mr Meadows said he would 'write to the Government’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer about stopping young people from acquiring lethal drugs on the internet'.
The article was followed by a number of online comments echoing that sentiment:
- Worrying how easily she seemed to purchase the lethal drug online. Very sad news.
- What kind of sickos sell a drug like that online.
- Depression can hit anyone. It doesn't matter how wealthy, smart, pretty, popular or talented you are. It is no protection.
- Selling death online? Wow I thought my sales morals were low
- Very very sad. And also really alarming to think how easily she obtained the drugs online...
It is high time we got past this false argument that the internet is impossible to regulate. I don't doubt that the nature of the beast makes it difficult; we've seen that in Australia in recent times with the online gambling phenomenon.
What is lacking is the political will - we're not lacking the ability to counter this problem.
Take for example the excellent work done by policing agencies across the globe to stamp out the exploitation and abuse of children in child pornography. These agencies co-operate across national and state boundaries and do excellent work in tracking down perpetrators and freeing abused minors.
Why do we lack the political will? Many reasons. Some argue a false appeal to personal freedom. I don't think the parents of Ms. Narayan would be convinced by that and neither should we. More worrying, however, is the notion that some suicides can be rational - in other words, if rational people chose to end their lives then we should be okay with that; if their 'right' to access the methods online creates the possibility that young people might also access these same drugs is regrettable 'collateral damage'.
Head of probably the largest online advocacy network, Philip Nitschke admitted as much in The Age article in 2010 that reported Coroner's findings in Victoria about this precise problem of young people accessing suicide drugs:
Dr Nitschke said that while young people and those with mental illnesses could access Exit's instructions on the internet, the risks of this had to be weighed against the benefits for many others.
''There will be some casualties … but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information,'' he said.