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The tricky topic of euthanasia

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Issue: An online metropolitan news outlet published an article which, in addition to using the term ‘committed suicide’, contained explicit information about a method used for a euthanasia technique. This breaches national media reporting guidelines from both the Australian Press Council and Mindframe.

Result: StigmaWatch contacted the news outlet outlining the concerns and offering editorial suggestions. However, the entire article was deleted from the website, with the online editor writing to StigmaWatch to say they agreed there were ‘too many details’ in the article to be able to ensure the safety of vulnerable readers.

Why it mattered: Media reporting guidelines recommend minimising descriptions of euthanasia method and accessibility to minimise the risk of copycat behaviour from vulnerable individuals who may be thinking about taking their own lives. Euthanasia is a complex and legitimate issue to be covered by the media, and while there is no clear evidence that talking about euthanasia more broadly is associated with suicidal behaviour, studies do suggest that there may be an association between reporting euthanasia methods and increases in suicide. With this in mind, the advice we give is always to minimise detailed descriptions of method, ensure accuracy and context, avoid the use of language associated with suicide, and add 24/7 crisis support services

Last updated: 7 March, 2018