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Was a Scientist?s Death Murder or an ?Act of Mercy??
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d***@agent.com
2018-09-04 16:48:08 UTC
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Was a Scientist’s Death Murder or an ‘Act of Mercy’?
By Rick Rojas, Aug. 28, 2018, NY Times

BUNDANOON, Australia — Even into her 80s, Mary E. White thrived on the
expanse of Australian rain forest she had made her home, and she told
friends of ambitious plans: She was going to write her autobiography,
and there were two other books she wanted to finish.

But dementia robbed her of vigor. Ms. White, an accomplished scientist
who gained prominence for warnings of desert encroachment and
overpopulation, soon moved into a nursing home closer to her family
but far from her old home. She could not communicate, friends said,
and did not recognize visitors.

Then, one evening this month, Ms. White was found dead. She was 92.
Several days later, her daughter was charged with murdering her.

The accusations have stunned people who knew Ms. White and her family,
as well as Bundanoon, the small town where neighbors remembered an
attentive daughter who would take her mother to the salon for haircuts
and stop in the cafe across the street. Many insist that whatever
happened must have been motivated by compassion and love.

“It would have been done as an act of mercy,” said Jenny Goldie, a
friend who had known Ms. White for 30 years. “There wouldn’t have been
any malice attached to it at all.”

The case has saddened and confused Ms. White’s friends. But it has
also tapped into the broader debate in Australia over euthanasia and
assisted dying, which has been renewed in recent weeks as Parliament
considered a proposal to overturn a two-decade-old ban on the practice
in the nation’s territories.

The legislation ultimately failed, but last year, the state of
Victoria became the first in Australia to legalize assisted dying,
allowing someone with an incurable illness and limited life expectancy
to obtain a dose of a lethal drug, and other states are considering
their own legislation. (The Victoria law requires that a patient be
mentally sound enough to make the request on his or her own,
preventing relatives or caretakers from applying on an ill person’s
behalf.)

No such allowance exists in New South Wales, where Bundanoon sits a
two-hour drive southwest of Sydney; an assisted dying bill was
rejected last year.

Some have viewed Ms. White’s case as an example of why that
conversation must continue.

[Sign up for the Australia Letter to get news, conversation starters
and local recommendations in your inbox each week.]

It has already stirred a delicate discussion about the toll of aging
and illness, as well as the impact of watching a family member’s
decline. It is a subject that especially resonates in Bundanoon, where
the population tends to skew older. (The median age, according to
census figures, is 56.)

Just over 2,700 people live in Bundy, as Bundanoon is known. It’s a
rural outpost set back on country roads winding through vast golden
fields specked with horses and sheep. The last time the town attracted
widespread notice was nearly a decade ago, when residents voted to ban
the sale of bottled water.

Violence of any kind is rare. “Stuff like that never happens in
Bundy,” said Olivia Cole, who has lived here for much of her life,
referring to the murder charge that has rattled the community.
“Nothing happens. No crime happens.”

Some have acknowledged that they could recognize themselves and their
parents in Ms. White’s case. The authorities have indicated that the
family had asked at her nursing home about euthanasia, and many here
suspect that as Ms. White’s health declined, her daughter, Barbara
Eckersley, must have felt compelled to intervene.

“It stopped the mother’s suffering,” said Peter Giannakos, who has
owned the Primula Cafe and Restaurant on the town’s main street for 25
years.

Some of his customers said such an act could be justifiable. He
considered his own mother-in-law, who is 96 and infirm, and said he
was less certain.

“I can’t do it,” he said. “I can’t do it.”

Ms. White, who was found dead at the nursing home, was killed on the
evening of Aug. 5, the police said, and Ms. Eckersley was arrested on
Aug. 8. Local news reports said a lethal combination of medications
had caused Ms. White’s death.

Ms. Eckersley, 66, has been released on bail. Through her lawyer, she
declined to comment, as did other family members. Friends said the two
women had been close. Among other things, they shared an interest in
science.

Ms. White, who did not often discuss her religious beliefs with
friends, described having a spiritual connection with nature, which
was her life’s work.

She was born in southern Africa, in what is now Zimbabwe, and she
studied paleobotany at the University of Capetown. She moved with her
husband, a geologist, and their children to Australia in 1955.

While working as a research associate for the Australian Museum in
Sydney, she assembled a plant fossil collection that included 12,000
specimens. Sometimes when her husband was sent to Northern Australia
for government work he would send home drums filled with fossils for
Ms. White to study.

Over time, her writing evolved from largely academic texts to books,
with titles like “Listen … Our Land is Crying” and “Running Down:
Water in a Changing Land,” that denounced unsustainable land and water
use in Australia and the threats posed by a booming population.

These were the works that became her legacy. “Mary White’s
contribution to our understanding of the natural cycles that drive all
life on the planet and of our human impact on those processes is
unsurpassed,” Chrissie Goldrick, the editor in chief of Australian
Geographic, said in a statement.

In 2003, Ms. White bought the sprawling property called Falls Forest,
a four-hour drive up the coast from Sydney. Conservationists praised
her for sparing some 200 acres of forest and preserving its
biodiversity and for opening it to the public. She identified and
labeled the plants along pathways around the property. Platypus were
sometimes spotted in the creek near the house, where wallabies and
eastern gray kangaroos routinely hopped by.

“It was Mary’s concern that we were losing too many of these ancient
forests,” said Brett Dolsen, a photographer who befriended Ms. White
and made a short documentary film about her. “Mary’s work will never
be forgotten in scientific and educational fields,” he said,
describing much of her work as pioneering. “Her message to humanity is
what she lived for in protecting our planet.”

Mr. Dolsen spent much time with Ms. White at Falls Forest, often
sitting with her on the veranda, where she would take the cover off
her parrot’s cage, wishing the bird a good morning and insisting Mr.
Dolsen do the same.

He was astonished by her energy. At 88, he said, she still ran the
property, with its conference center and villas for guests. But he
learned that her increasingly methodical approach to life was a way of
navigating her dementia.

“Mary had forewarned me that her memory was failing,” he said, “and
that there were certain protocols I would need to know, including our
arrangements and times for meeting.”

By the time she left the property a few years ago and moved to
Bundanoon, where her daughter lives, the disease had accelerated
considerably. Ms. Goldie said that Ms. White’s family had told her
that she was essentially incapacitated. “She was the diametric
opposite of what she had been before,” Ms. Goldie said.

Ms. Goldie, who had gotten to know Ms. White through their involvement
in environmental advocacy, had visited Ms. Eckersley’s home about a
week before Ms. White died. Ms. Goldie said she sensed tension.

“No smiling,” she said. “No laughter in the house.”

She recognized the strain Ms. Eckersley was under. She was reminded of
the anguish she faced as her mother’s health declined. It wasn’t clear
if prosecutors pursuing the murder charge would take such issues into
account, but they had not yet suggested any ulterior motive in Ms.
White’s death.

“It’s just very hard when you have to sort of encounter it every day,”
Ms. Goldie said. “They knew I understood and I think they appreciated
that. But I don’t think I understood how desperate Barbara must have
been.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/world/australia/euthanasia-mary-white.html
d***@agent.com
2018-09-04 16:49:11 UTC
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***@agent.com wrote:

>Was a Scientist’s Death Murder or an ‘Act of Mercy’?
>By Rick Rojas, Aug. 28, 2018, NY Times

[COMMENTS}

Noodles, USA, Aug. 29
Times Pick
I was the primary caregiver for my mother-in-law who had Alzheimer's
during the last four years of her life and held her frail hand as she
died. And now sadly, my husband has started showing early signs of the
disease. I can't imagine that anyone but a masochist would choose to
continue living with advanced Alzheimer's.

People with Alzheimer's don't just forget things, The brain and the
entire body shut down. These people lose the ability to walk, move,
think, speak, control their bowels, breathe and even swallow. There is
a long, horrible decline, for both the person and the people who take
on the emotionally, physically, and economically draining burden of
providing care.

You may choose to wax poetic about the privilege of being a caregiver.
But It is an open secret among doctors that the previously healthy
spouse of an Alzheimer's patient often dies before the patient does.
That's what happened to my father-in-law, and, to be brutally frank, I
expect it will also happen to me.

Modern medicine is a double edged sword. By extending people's lives,
we guarantee increasing numbers of us will experience, either first
hand or second hand, the horror and pointlessness of living in a shell
of a body with a dying brain.

We owe it to the millions of Alzheimer's patients and their millions
of caregivers to allow a legal and merciful assisted death. Anything
less than that is callous and self-righteous cruelty.
87 Recommend
===================
Bill Prange, California, Aug. 29
There's no quandary for me. None. I have watched fortunes dwindle to
nothing to keep elders in vegetative states for years. My father, with
dementia, was tortured with all manner of physical therapy until he
mercifully passed. I have made my wishes clear to my children, in
conversation and in writing, that they must act if a stroke renders me
mentally and physically incapacitated. If it's a diagnosis of
dementia, I'll have one more twirl on the dance floor with my darling
ones, and end my life. We send children off to war to be slaughtered
in the thousands, but our elders must be kept alive long past their
expiration date, and often to their incalculable misery? Strange. And
not for me. My money will be enjoyed by my children and their children
in the business of living, and not wasted on me in the business of
dying. Bill's wife.
113 Recommend
Meteorite Debris
2018-09-05 00:17:51 UTC
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In article <***@4ax.com>,
***@agent.com says...
>
> ***@agent.com wrote:
>
> >Was a Scientist?s Death Murder or an ?Act of Mercy??
> >By Rick Rojas, Aug. 28, 2018, NY Times
>
> [COMMENTS}
>
> Noodles, USA, Aug. 29
> Times Pick
> I was the primary caregiver for my mother-in-law who had Alzheimer's
> during the last four years of her life and held her frail hand as she
> died. And now sadly, my husband has started showing early signs of the
> disease. I can't imagine that anyone but a masochist would choose to
> continue living with advanced Alzheimer's.
>
> People with Alzheimer's don't just forget things, The brain and the
> entire body shut down. These people lose the ability to walk, move,
> think, speak, control their bowels, breathe and even swallow. There is
> a long, horrible decline, for both the person and the people who take
> on the emotionally, physically, and economically draining burden of
> providing care.
>
> You may choose to wax poetic about the privilege of being a caregiver.
> But It is an open secret among doctors that the previously healthy
> spouse of an Alzheimer's patient often dies before the patient does.
> That's what happened to my father-in-law, and, to be brutally frank, I
> expect it will also happen to me.
>
> Modern medicine is a double edged sword. By extending people's lives,
> we guarantee increasing numbers of us will experience, either first
> hand or second hand, the horror and pointlessness of living in a shell
> of a body with a dying brain.
>
> We owe it to the millions of Alzheimer's patients and their millions
> of caregivers to allow a legal and merciful assisted death. Anything
> less than that is callous and self-righteous cruelty.
> 87 Recommend
> ===================
> Bill Prange, California, Aug. 29
> There's no quandary for me. None. I have watched fortunes dwindle to
> nothing to keep elders in vegetative states for years. My father, with
> dementia, was tortured with all manner of physical therapy until he
> mercifully passed. I have made my wishes clear to my children, in
> conversation and in writing, that they must act if a stroke renders me
> mentally and physically incapacitated. If it's a diagnosis of
> dementia, I'll have one more twirl on the dance floor with my darling
> ones, and end my life. We send children off to war to be slaughtered
> in the thousands, but our elders must be kept alive long past their
> expiration date, and often to their incalculable misery? Strange. And
> not for me. My money will be enjoyed by my children and their children
> in the business of living, and not wasted on me in the business of
> dying. Bill's wife.
> 113 Recommend

My father is 92 and he has vascular dementia. I have seen him decline in
abilities. From president of a local chess club and president of a local
college, journalist and part time ranger in a national park and board
member of a wild life body to being a total dependent. He is confused
about where he is living and usually doesn't know me or my name. No male
in his family has lived to his age. His father lived to 58 and his
brother to 56. Only one of his uncles had lived to 90. We are living
longer by being sick for longer.
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