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Voluntary euthanasia laws in Australia: are we really better off dead?

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Ethical and moral implications make euthanasia a complex question

I sat alone in a windowless room for a week at a time reading coroners’ case files about how nursing home residents had died by suicide. There were times when I had to clock off early for the day because I was emotionally drained and I wanted to preserve my own sanity. There were times when a seemingly minor feature of someone’s story made me stop and shake my head in disbelief, and even brought me to tears. Some of the stories were tragic. Some were relatable, even understandable. Some were political statements, others a statement of the deficiencies of our aged care and mental health systems.

You would perhaps think that this experience would make me one of the fiercest advocates for voluntary euthanasia and assisted dying, but you would be mistaken. Instead, this experience left me with a profound sense of the complexities of suicide among older adults and how often and easily these can be overshadowed by the euthanasia debate.

My research uses existing medico-legal information generated for coroner’s investigations to examine the frequency and nature of intentional deaths, including suicides, among older adults who are living in accredited residential aged care services in Australia. In the first year of my research, to understand what had been previously studied, I conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed articles examining…