In the first known case like it in the world, an Australian man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for encouraging his wife, who suffered from chronic back pain and depression but was not terminally ill, to kill herself.
In October, Graham Morant, 68, was convicted of convincing his wife, Jennifer, who was then 56, to commit suicide in 2014 and helping her in the effort. Justice Peter Davis said in the Queensland Supreme Court that Graham Morant triggered the action by his wife so he could collect her $1.4 million life insurance benefits. Davis told Morant, “You counseled your wife to kill herself because you wanted to get your hands on the $1.4m … your general financial position was such that $1.4 million was a very significant sum, as it would be to most people,” he said.
According to Davis, this was the first time around the world that someone had been sentenced for convincing another person to commit suicide. The jury did not accept Morant’s plea of not guilty; they decided his wife would not have committed suicide without her husband urging her to do so.
On November 30, 2014, Jennifer Morant was found dead in her car next to a petrol generator with a note reading, “Please don’t resuscitate me.” During the trial, the jury heard that Graham Morant had taken his wife to a hardware store to purchase the generator.
Morant had told his wife that he would use the insurance money to create a religious commune. Davis told Morant, “You took advantage of her vulnerability as a sick and depressed woman.”
The Washington Post added:
During the trial, Jennifer Morant’s friend Judy Dent said that Jennifer Morant had “made it clear” before she died that “her husband wanted the insurance money.” Dent testified that Jennifer Morant told her: “I have to kill myself and Graham will be helping me.” After the sentencing, Dent told ABC she’d remember Morant for her “bubbly, very full-on, very engaging” personality.
In November 2017, the Australian state of Victoria became the country’s first state to legalize assisted dying after more than two years debating the issue. That law allowed Victorians suffering from a terminal, incurable illness to get a lethal drug to enable them to commit suicide. That law joined Victoria with Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg to legalize euthanasia.
According to Dr. Lorraine Baker, the president of the Australian Medical Association’s Victoria branch, a survey of Australian Medical Association members in 2016 found a minority supported euthanasia policies. She felt that a life-or-death decision should not be made by doctors. She asserted, “Ultimately it’s a matter for society and the government.”
Morant was sentenced to 10 years in prison for counseling suicide, and six years on the charge of aiding suicide. He will be eligible for parole in October 2023.
The distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide was explained by Penney Lewis, Professor of Law at King’s College, London, who stated, “Euthanasia is an intervention undertaken with the intention of ending a life to relieve suffering, for example a lethal injection administered by a doctor. Assisted suicide is any act that intentionally helps another person kill themselves, for example by providing them with the means to do so, most commonly by prescribing a lethal medication.”