The suicide of 86-year-old Dorothy Hookey, suffering intolerable arthritic pain and also a long-time member of pro-euthanasia group Exit International has attracted both media and, unfortunately, police attention.
Dorothy took all the precautions necessary not to involve her family, and in particular, her husband Graham, in her suicide. She died alone and without any of the family knowing the time she had chosen for her death.
Her husband discovered her sitting up in bed, and suspecting a heart attack, tried to revive her, without success.
When a suicide note was discovered the next day, the police, in an act of the most unbelievable insensitivity, began searching the Hookey’s house.
And what were they looking for?
Evidence that he had assisted her. Of course he assisted her. That’s what people who are 85 years old and married to each other do. They assist each other. They make caps of tea for each other. They pick up packages from the post office from each other. They key in URLs and make internet payments for each other if their partner’s arthritic fingers are incapable of working a keyboard.
The problem is that this is a crime.
People like Dorothy Hookey do not reach a point where they are able to commit suicide without the assistance, help and emotional support of their partner.
It must be a painfully difficult experience for both of them. But they are both entitled to respect, privacy and dignity in this.
And yet at the end this incredibly strong woman chose to take her life without telling her partner, Graham. She knew that if he were present when she died he would risk going to prison. She may also have known that he would have insisted on being present.
Dorothy Hookey’s death was an unnecessarily lonely death and we can only imagine Graham Hookey’s grief.
Yet despite overwhelming public support for euthanasia, there are no politicians in Australia who have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say, “This must stop.”