Deadly censorship games: keeping a tight lid on the euthanasia debate

The Australian government vigorously censors information about peaceful ways of dying even though we have access to violent means of ending life. Alex @ Faraway

TALKING ABOUT DEATH AND DYING - Why don’t we talk about death and dying? We can choose so many of our life experiences, but it seems we can have no say in whether we die in pain or at peace. Today we look at the Australian government’s efforts to suppress discussion of euthanasia.

There’s plenty of information available on how to kill yourself violently, so why does the Australian government so vigorously censor information on peaceful methods?

Voluntary euthanasia societies have long been pushing to legalise death with dignity. According to opinion polls, a strong majority of Australians support legalisation, yet Australian governments have been unreceptive. When the Northern Territory government legalised euthanasia in 1996, the federal parliament overruled the law less than a year later.

Philip Nitschke, despairing of the legal route, set up Exit International to enable people to learn how to obtain a peaceful death through their own initiative. Exit publications provide information about obtaining pentobarbital, commonly known as Nembutal, the drug of choice everywhere that death with dignity is legal.

Censorship and response

The Australian government has responded with amazingly draconian censorship. No other government has taken such extreme measures to prevent access to information on peaceful death.

Exit had an information phone line. The government passed a law making it illegal to convey information over the telephone about ending one’s life. Exit responded by putting its phone line in New Zealand.