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Not a good look

By Paul Russell - posted Monday, 20 February 2012

"Not a good look" said Phillip Nitschke to an ABC news journalist. He was referring to the fact that Merin Nielsen, the man convicted yesterday (Feb 16) in a Brisbane court of assisted suicide of Frank Ward in 2009 was the sole beneficiary of Ward's estate.

Nielsen will serve only six months of a three year sentence. Nitschke said it was 'dreadful' that he would serve anytime at all.

"He's a person who's now a significant criminal in the eyes of the law...although he was acting out of concern for Frank Ward." He told a Brisbane Times reporter.


Concern and compassion are worthwhile emotions, but the law can never be based on emotions because they are fickle, as this case clearly shows. The law can only be based upon the reality of an action or actions and their effect upon the safety, life and property of others. Certainly, the courts can exercise leniency in sentencing, as seems to be the case here, but the law is the law.

Nitschke called the Queensland law 'excessive'. I don't know how you can use a comparative in such circumstances but I think we all know what he wants: the decriminalisation of assisted suicide.

Assisting in suicide is a criminal offence simply because while a person may choose to kill themselves, as soon as another person is involved, the possibility that death was not freely chosen increases significantly. The law must be both a deterrent and an educator, and while Nielsen's time in custody might seem to some to be too short in light of some of the circumstances, the law was upheld as it should be.

To change the law would be to show reckless indifference to those in our community who, for whatever reason, are vulnerable to coercion and abuse.

Let's look at what the media reported:

Nielsen was made Ward's sole beneficiary not long before he died and Nielsen was $12,000 in debt at the time.


Ward was not terminally ill and not at all incapacitated. Nielsen had no idea what Ward's medical conditions might have been at the time.

It was claimed that Nielsen told interviewing police "hundred's of lies" including suggesting that Ward had been given the pentobarbital by someone else while he (Nielsen) was away in Mexico (purchasing the pentobarbital).

Nielsen was the last person to see Ward before his death (which occurred on the day Nielsen returned from Mexico).

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About the Author

Paul Russell is the Director of HOPE: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide

Paul is also Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

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