Magda Subanski on The Project. Picture: Network 10
Magda Subanski on The Project. Picture: Network 10

Magda’s question brings man to tears

A CANBERRA  man who was almost jailed for 10 years after helping his terminally ill wife take her own life has broken down on TV after a heartbreaking question from Magda Szubanski.

Neil O'Riordan, 63, appeared on The Project last night, hours after he was cleared of all charges.

Mr O'Riordan was arrested earlier this year and charged with assisted suicide after he helped his wife of 25 years Penelope Blume end her life.

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold said yesterday dragging Mr O'Riordan through court would be "unduly harsh and oppressive" and found the 63-year-old had been "motivated wholly by love and compassion".

Ms Blume was diagnosed with a degenerative motor neurone disease in 2016 and late last year, her health took a turn for the worse.


Neil O'Riordan with his wife Penelope Blume.
Neil O'Riordan with his wife Penelope Blume.


She started speaking to her husband about ending her life.

"For Penelope who'd always enjoyed good health, having a body that didn't work any more was catastrophic," Mr O'Riordan told The Project.

By March, Ms Blume relied on her husband for everything in her day-to-day life. It was then she asked Mr O'Riordan to help her go peacefully.

"It's the bravest thing I've ever seen. I'll live with the decision that I made," Mr O'Riordan said.

Mr O'Riordan said he was happy he was no longer facing a potential jail term of 10 years but said he wished the ACT had embraced euthanasia in the same way as Victoria.

The state legalised voluntary euthanasia two weeks ago."I grew up in what used to be a compassionate and caring country, and I guess I've become concerned that we display less and less of those characteristics," Mr O'Riordan said.

"I would hope when it comes to the issue of voluntary assisted dying that we go back to the compassion and caring country that we used to be."

Mr O'Riordan kept it together throughout the interview until Magda Szubanski, standing in as a panellist on The Project, asked him a question.

"It must have been an incredibly hard thing to do," Szubanski asked.

"When the final moment came, were you at peace with the decision because you knew that it was what Penelope wanted?"


Magda Szubanski on The Project. Picture: Network 10
Magda Szubanski on The Project. Picture: Network 10


With a laugh, Mr O'Riordan responded.

"OK. Theoretically, yes, I was perfectly fine with it," the Canberran said, as his voice started to break.

"Until it happened. And I was devastated. I wailed. I thought about the unfairness about why couldn't I be doing this with my family? Why did we have to be covert?"

The couple went on a final date the night of Ms Blume's death - but they were never secretive about what was going to happen.

"We weren't secretive about it. I'm surrounded by people who love and care about me. People were aware of what was going to happen," Mr O'Riordan said.

"I guess the covertness comes from the fact that the way that it had to happen. I would hope there are opportunities in future for people to perhaps do that with their family more involved for the processes to be less covert."

Mr O'Riordan said the couple's final hours were exactly what his wife of 25 years wanted.

"She wanted to see the beach again, eat seafood again, difficult to acquire in Canberra, and mostly, I guess, we wanted to spend some time alone together," he said.

"I was prepared to and fully expected to be charged, and I guess at some level I expected to be convicted, and I'm very grateful that the court made a different decision."

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