A recently released report details the increasing rate of voluntary assisted suicide in Victoria, Australia, as hundreds have ended their lives following the state’s legalization of euthanasia in 2019.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board of the Victorian Agency for Health Information, which oversees voluntary assisted suicide and euthanasia in the state, recently released its mandated biannual report.
The report shows that in the last six months of 2020, voluntary assisted suicide rates have increased in Victoria. Victoria became the first Australian state to introduce voluntary assisted dying when the state legalized euthanasia in June 2019 through the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017.
From its legalization to December 2020, 328 assisted suicide permit holders in Australia have died, of which 56% died by administering “medication” themselves while 12% had the medication administered by a medical practitioner.
Nearly a third died before ever receiving the assisted suicide medication.
A total of 581 people in Victoria applied for voluntary assisted dying since June 2019, and the average age of applicants was 71 years old. However, the ages of applicants have ranged from 20 to 100 years old. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements.
The data shows that 446 individuals sought information on voluntary assisted suicide in the last six months of 2020 alone, according to the data.
Wesley J. Smith, author and chair and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, an organization that seeks to preserve human rights and dignity, said assisted dying or euthanasia is a “destruction of human equal worth.”
In a Monday interview, Smith told The Christian Post that euthanasia often becomes “normalized” once it’s legal.
“Once you legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, then the effort comes to normalize that as the better way of dying. [It’s called] ‘death with dignity,’ right? As if dying naturally isn’t dignified,” Smith said. “And you generally see in a consistent pattern of an ever-increasing number of people who die by euthanasia … or assisted suicide.”
According to the report, medical practitioner administration permits also increased by 31.6%, and the number of confirmed deaths by practitioner administration grew by 81.8% in the last half of 2020.
The board reports an increase in the number of medical practitioners who completed the online training program required to participate in voluntary assisted dying and an increase in those who received voluntary assisted dying applications.
The board submits its findings to Parliament. The next report covering the first half of 2021 for Victoria will be presented in August.
In recent months, euthanasia has become more prevalent worldwide.
On Thursday, Spain passed legislation legalizing euthanasia, making it the fourth European country to allow physician-assisted suicide in some circumstances.
Last week, Canada passed legislation to expand access to physician-assisted suicide after making it legal in 2016.
“So this is a very consistent pattern. Once it’s legalized, you wind up with more and more people doing it because it becomes normalized,” Smith said. “And you’ll always see a lot of media stories that promote this. … [The media and pop culture] all play a part in promoting this as the best way to [die].”
In 2020, the Netherlands expanded euthanasia to include terminally ill children younger than 12 years old, a Dutch court approved euthanasia for dementia patients and three countries voted to legalize assisted suicide.
Euthanasia legislation typically begins with strict medical and legal guidelines used as obstacles or barriers to protect individuals in the realm of assisted suicide, Smith shared.
Before long, he argues, efforts are made to loosen the protections to make assisted suicide more accessible and less restrictive.
“Then you will also begin to see that the supposed tight restrictions are deemed to be too restrictive,” he said. “They become obstacles, they become burdens and you begin to see a loosening process. The ultimate end goal, by the way, whether they intend it or not, but certainly the end outcome is going to be death on demand because once you say that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering, how do you limit it in any way?”
Some countries have expanded euthanasia to mentally ill or disabled individuals and often use it as a means of organ harvesting, Smith added.
Smith said the expansion of euthanasia “destroys hope” and sends a “very loud message” that some lives have more value than others based on certain conditions. He said assisted suicide also neglects proper intervention or suicide prevention efforts.
“When you say that there are some people who are killable and some people who are not killable, you basically say that we are no longer in an anti-suicide society,” Smith said. “We are a ‘pro-some suicide’ society. And the people whose suicides we begin to validate, … you are saying that certain lives are not worth living.”
Though not nearly as prominent in the United States, at least eight states and the District of Columbia currently have physician-assisted suicide or aid-in-dying legislation, according to Death with Dignity. These states include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.