Friday, November 23, 2018

Rosemary McLeod: From Scammers to Euthanasia Advocates, These Are Dark Days in Old Ladydom

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OPINION: These are perilous times for tottering toward old ladydom. The women's mags cut your life support at 50 unless you're Helen Mirren, sooner if you're not, in which case you might as well sign up for the Philip Nitschke death machine, with optional funeral casket.


What a sensitive Christmas present that would be for elderly women. If they're not already being scammed of their last dollar online, they run the risk of falling victim to the government.

Economic Development Minister David Parker is reportedly keen to dip into the Super Fund and set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to back bright new business ideas, potentially undermining the security of many old ladies, who live longer than men, for years to come.

This strikes me as reckless. Too many people's life savings have already gone down the gurgler in retirement schemes and "safe bet" investments that ruined the elderly.

Old ladies don't count for much, admittedly, being past sexual intrigue and fashion victimhood. They have their uses as free child carers for family, but mainly they're slow drivers and generally bothersome. No wonder they're the dominant group in Nitschke's euthanasia audiences, up with the latest in toxic gases, if not the latest Vogue.

Kiwi forensic scientist Sean Davison shares Nitschke's fascination with euthanasia. He appeared in a Cape Town court last Friday, charged with the 2015 murder of Justin Varian​, who had motor neuron disease, and already stands accused of killing a quadriplegic friend. There was also his 85-year-old mother, who had cancer. He was convicted and sentenced in Dunedin some years back to five months of home detention for helping her kill herself. He belongs to an organisation connected to Nitschke.

I'm reminded of English serial killer Dr Harold Shipton, who "helped" 250 people die of lethal injection, 80 per cent of them elderly women. Like the Kiwi con artist who passed as a psychiatrist in England, and was arrested this past week, he was caught when he fiddled with their wills, an example of just one thing that bothers me about assisted suicide. What about improving people's lives instead? That would involve valuing them in the first place, of course, a stumbling block I admit.

My great-grandmother had her own darkroom and photographic equipment more than a century ago, in the remote Wairarapa. Rather than admire her achievements, after she died one of her sons took care to dig a deep hole in the local river bed, and throw all her glass plates into it. He loved her, he said, as he annihilated her creative work.

My elderly cousin Helen was blessed with live-in carers by the local hospital board. They cleaned out her house full of old things as a "favour" that would have been profitable for them. But who keeps an eye on old women when their minds wander? What use are they? Why bother?

This year we achieved the distinction of 668 suicides without the help of Nitschke or Davison. It is our personal best, our highest number yet. I wonder, then, why there's a drive to have more, assisted (by whom?) and what Nitschke calls "rational". Don't we have enough already? And if suicide is your inalienable right, as Nitschke insists, who cares if it's irrational?

As for Nitschke's new suicide kit, which he announced was in development earlier this year, it could be controlled with the blink of an eye, he says – cause for concern among involuntary blinkers, who could find themselves sucking in a fatal dose of nitrogen quite by chance.

No seriously, I'm sure it'll be foolproof.