Webcast archive: Assisted suicide & women

This week, we discuss the disproportionate impact of assisted suicide on women.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Women face greater danger from assisted suicide
  • Assisted suicide bill defeated in South Australia

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • Several feminist scholars who have looked at assisted suicide believe it is especially dangerous for women.
  • Scholars believe that the idea of autonomy does not apply well to women because it doesn’t take into account the impact of gender bias in our society.
  • Scholars believe that the reasons women ask for assisted suicide, and the reasons they receive it, have a lot to do with gender bias:
    • Women are devalued in our society – old and disabled women even more so.
    • Women are expected to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their families and those around them.
    • Women have a hard time getting good health care,
      • Women often get poor pain relief.
      • Physical problems are often written off as psychological in origin.
      • Women have higher rates of depression than men, and mental health care is often not covered by insurance
      • Women face a higher rate of poverty and are less likely to have employment-based insurance
      • Because women live longer, they are more likely to be alone in old age.
      • Women are taught to not be assertive nor to advocate on their own behalf.
    • Requests for assisted suicide may be an effort to change an oppressive situation, such as domestic violence.
    • Gender expectations may affect the physician’s decision whether or not to grant the request.
  • Gender issues also affect the public debate.
    • Women are most often featured in media accounts of assisted suicide.
    • The devaluation of women, and the expectations of self-sacrifice, may play a role in the public’s attitudes about assisted suicide.
  • Women attempt suicide three times more often than men, but men are 3.5 times more likely to complete suicide.  Assisted suicide seems designed to equalize those numbers.
    • In some countries, (Belgium) the ratio of men to women who have euthanasia is about even
    • In other countries, (Switzerland) more women than men have assisted suicide or euthanasia.
    • 70% of Jack Kevorkian’s victims were women.
  • Women make up over 70% of people euthanized for psychiatric reasons.


  • A Bill which would have legalized assisted suicide in the state of South Australia was defeated by one vote after an all-night debate.
  • According to Paul Russell, founder and director of HOPE, (a Coalition to prevent euthanasia and assisted suicide), “The Death with Dignity Bill 2016 was the second bill debated this year. It came closely on the heels of an abandoned recent attempt in the same parliament to enact a ‘Belgium style’ bill. That bill was deemed to be a bridge too far for the parliament and the substitute new bill was seen by many to be more moderate; a ‘bad-cop/good-cop’ scenario. That kind of thinking clearly influenced a number of members of parliament.  For the first time in the history of the Lower House of the Parliament, the bill passed the first hurdle (second reading) by a margin of 27 votes to 19 in the early evening.
  • “The debate moved on to the committee stage where clauses are debated and questions can be asked of the mover of the bill. Running late into the night, in fact all night, those opposed to the bill and others exposed many of the shortcomings of the bill in a forensic manner.
  • “The final vote was taken at 4:02 am. The house divided 23 votes to 23. The bill was defeated on the vote of the Speaker.”