Why This Mother Is Begging for Death in a TV Advert; TOO PAINFUL TO LIVE: CANCER VICTIM ASKS NATION TO LEGALISE EUTHANASIA

By Thorne, Frank | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), March 15, 1999 | Go to article overview

Why This Mother Is Begging for Death in a TV Advert; TOO PAINFUL TO LIVE: CANCER VICTIM ASKS NATION TO LEGALISE EUTHANASIA


Thorne, Frank, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


HE pain-racked face of June Burns will be beamed into a nation's living rooms this week.

And millions of people will hear her plead to be allowed to die.

The 59-year-old mother of four is terminally ill with bladder cancer - the disease which killed her father.

And, bad as her suffering is now - even morphine can't always shut it out - she knows it will be nothing compared to the agony to come.

British-born June, who emigrated to Australia from Surrey, is taking part in a series of adverts made by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New South Wales.

Close to tears and struggling to talk, she is shown in her hospital bed, pleading for help to end her life.

"I don't want to have to kill myself, but if nobody can help me, I'm going to have to," she tells viewers.

She also details her constant pain, despite three daily doses of morphine.

She says: "I feel life is very precious. I've enjoyed every moment of it, and I wish it could go on, but I can't and I would like to die with dignity."

Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, who pioneered Australia's world- first euthanasia laws until they were overturned by the Federal Government, said the adverts were Mrs Burns' own idea.

Dr Nitschke, who was dubbed Dr Death when he invented a computerised suicide machine to enable terminally-ill patients to administer a lethal drugs cocktail, said yesterday: "This is telling the story as it is, and, of course, it was June's idea.

"She wanted to do something which would change the situation before she died."

Dr Nitschke helped three terminally-ill patients to die before the government over- ruled Right to Die laws passed by the Northern Territory Government.

"Each of us should have the right to determine how much suffering we have to endure at the end of our lives," he said.

"This is a very compelling case and will force people to confront the issue - politicians won't bite the bullet."

The pro-euthanasia lobby is launching the ads during the New South Wales State elections in an attempt to make legal mercy killing a political issue.

Right-to-life spokesman Greg Smith said: "My concern is that a sick woman is being used as a scapegoat for a campaign to legalise killing."

The first of the commercials was made four days ago, and there are plans for a series of follow-ups, tracking Mrs Burns' decline.

She said determinedly: "I feel so strongly about it that I would do it from the grave if I could - anything to make it easier for other people.

"If I was a dog right now, the RSPCA would be on to my husband for cruelty and would have me put down right away.

"I think human beings are treated worse than animals."

Despite the fact that June's husband and family are behind her 100 per cent, the commercials are certain to cause a massive outcry from right- to-life organisations.

Dr David Brand, of the Australian Medical Association, who are opposed to mercy killing, said:

"In the end this is about killing somebody, and that is not the hallmark of a civilised society."

Dr Peter Baume, of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Australia, said: "It is about time that people were allowed to make decisions for themselves about themselves. …

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