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Man convicted of assisting wife's suicide to get her life insurance

4 October 2018

Jennifer Morant was counselled by her husband to commit suicide.

How could an assisted suicide regime prevent cases like this?

In a case that illustrates the dangers of assuming that those assisting a relative's suicide always have their best interests at heart, a man in Australia has been convicted of aiding his wife's suicide in order to get her life insurance payments.

"I have to kill myself"

A jury found that Graham Morant, 69, counselled and aided his wife Jennifer, 56, to commit suicide. Mrs Morant had suffered from chronic pain but was not terminally ill when she was found dead alongside a petrol generator in her car on 30 November, 2014.

Prosecutors had told the court that Mr Morant stood to receive A$1.4m (£770,000) as the sole beneficiary of his wife's life insurance policies. According to testimony heard in court, Mr Morant, a "devout Christian" told her that he planned to use the insurance money to build a religious commune.

Mrs Morant - who suffered from chronic back pain, depression and anxiety - had told a friend a week before her death: "I have to kill myself and Graham will be helping." Justice Peter Davis said the jury had ruled that Mrs Morant would not have ended her life without her husband's counselling.

He will be sentenced on 19 October.

Putting the vulnerable at risk

The conviction of counselling a person to die by suicide appeared not to have a precedent in Australia or elsewhere, prosecutors told the court.

However, the case does serve to illustrate that vulnerable people can be put under pressure to end their lives by unscrupulous relatives. The elderly and the sick are particularly vulnerable, and no assisted suicide law is able to prevent this kind of abuse.

Last year, Victoria became the first Australian state to legalise assisted suicide.

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