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bulletDeath for sale is a step into the dark  "End-of-life care is expensive. If voluntary euthanasia lopped a mere six months off the lives of ailing elderly, immense savings would result."
bullet DOCTOR SETS UP "how to die" workshops in New Zealand 
bulletAustralia 'mercy killing'
bullet Group calls for safeguards to allow voluntary euthanasia  How tragic that some will believe euthanasia is the only way to prevent preventable suffering.  C. Eckstein, CHN


Death for sale is a step into the dark

Michael Cook | May 9, 2007

Whatever you may think of the euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke, you have to admire his progressive use of technology. Just the other day he said he was encrypting emails to avoid government surveillance. And his advice on how to buy lethal poisons in Mexico and manufacture a lethal barbiturate, as disclosed on Four Corners, would be impossible without the internet.

He has even posted his DIY suicide manual, The Peaceful Pill, on Google Books. In it you will find instructions on how to kill yourself with plastic bags, carbon monoxide, cyanide, morphine, homebrew nembutal, and so on.

In line with cutting-edge trends in internet commerce, Nitschke is bypassing the medical profession's monopoly on death management and putting free open-source technology in the hands of consumers. His fans must feel the same thrill as Linux users defying the Microsoft behemoth.

Nitschke is a progressive in his business philosophy as well. When he helped several Northern Territorians to die a decade ago, euthanasia was defended as a way of ending unbearable pain. With good palliative care, deathbed torment is largely a thing of the past. There may well be discomfort and lack of control, but not excruciating pain.

Nitschke's genius is to have nimbly adapted to the new medical environment. Now he mainly services people who are tired of life. In effect, Nitschke has reinvented himself as an internet suicide provider.

There is a downside to technological change. Making suicide another consumer good depersonalises medicine. Nitschke doesn't seem to worry much about whether his clients are depressed or demoralised or socially isolated or lonely. It's not part of the job description of internet suicide providers. They just fill orders, more like warehouse clerks than Marcus Welby, MD.

So Nitschke gets full marks for being progressive and entrepreneurial. But why is his campaign regarded as a socially progressive cause like refugees, climate change and bringing David Hicks home? Remember, the biggest government ever to endorse voluntary euthanasia was Hitler's Germany. In fact, the dialogue in the maudlin Nazi film Ich Klage An (I Accuse) sounds a lot like Nitschke's reports of his clients' deaths. Not a very progressive precedent.

It's also odd because the "progressive" tag hardly suits euthanasia as an impersonal retail transaction. A few years ago Nitschke advocated putting his suicide pills on supermarket shelves. They would provide a peaceful death for anyone who wanted it, "including the depressed, the elderly bereaved [and] the troubled teen". This is not a view that he has repudiated. In his 2005 book Killing Me Softly he included prisoners among the potential beneficiaries, mooting voluntary euthanasia as "the last frontier in prison reform". 

Killing Me Softly is an activist's manifesto, not a philosopher's treatise. It's not fair to wring sentences dry for consistency and logic. But when Nitschke deals with the economics of euthanasia, he seems to be taking a firm and unequivocal stand. He emerges as a flint-hearted economic rationalist, not a bleeding heart progressive.

Euthanasia would be a good way to trim fat from government budgets, he argues. End-of-life care is expensive. If voluntary euthanasia lopped a mere six months off the lives of ailing elderly, immense savings would result.

"One can but wonder when a government will have the guts to stop digging the fiscal black hole that is their ever-deepening legacy for future generations. While the enabling of end-of-life choices will not fix the economic woes of the next 40 years, it would not hurt, given half a chance. So the next time you hear a government minister trying to argue why this or that payment or welfare program for single mothers or war veterans must be cut, counter their argument with their fiscal irresponsibility on end-of-life choices."

The 18th-century satirist Jonathan Swift proposed to solve food shortages in Ireland by roasting and boiling surplus Irish babies. But he was joking. Nitschke is not joking.

Is this the mellow voice of progressive compassion? Surely not. It sounds more like the gravelly voice of the "compassionate conservativism" so beloved of US neocons, the guys who brought democracy to Iraq, along with thousands of civilian deaths. Death has lost its existential meaning for Nitschke. Instead it has become an opportunity to market books about his lethal gizmos over the internet. This is not a future that Australian progressives should want to be part of.

Michael Cook is editor of the international bioethics newsletter BioEdge and the internet magazine MercatorNet.


Last Update: Wednesday, May 9, 2007. 11:04am (AEST)


BMJ 2001;322:315 ( 10 February ) 


bullet Doctor sets up "how to die" workshops in New Zealand   by Christopher Zinn, Sydney 

The controversial Australian voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke is planning to extend his activities abroad by setting up clinics and "how to die" workshops in New Zealand. 

But Dr Nitschke, who helped four terminally ill patients to legally kill themselves before the euthanasia laws in Northern Territory were overturned in 1997, is not leaving Australia. 

He is also setting up a laboratory in Darwin to which people can send samples of out of date prescription drugs such as barbiturates to find out if they are lethal. "It is a common thing for people to be stockpiling drugs in case they come in handy one day, to end their lives peacefully should the occasion arise," he said. 

Dr Nitschke, who qualified in medicine at the age of 42 after an earlier doctorate in physics, is back in the news after Sydney police said they wanted to interview him about the apparent overdose of a 72 year old woman with cancer.  

Norma Hall, a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, reportedly died after drinking a bottle of morphine prescribed by palliative care staff. Dr Nitschke, who was with her, has denied assisting her suicide, which is illegal.  

Dr Nitschke said that he would apply for New Zealand medical registration and merely be advising patients on questions that they wanted answered. Counselling, aiding, or abetting suicide is illegal and has the same penalty as manslaughter.  "I won't be advising people to commit suicide at all," he said of his initial two week visit, when he will hold consultations with 16 patients. 

The New Zealand Medical Association, which is opposed to euthanasia, said there was nothing it could do to stop him. But the Doctors For Life group is seeking legal advice. "If we know he is giving specific advice to people then there will be grounds to move," said the group's president, Dr Kevin Fitzsimons. 

SOURCE: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/322/7282/315/a


bulletTuesday, January 21, 2001

Dr Philip Nitschke Australia 'mercy killing'

Dr Philip Nitschke previously helped four people to die Australian police are investigating the death of an elderly cancer-stricken woman after she gave a television interview with a euthanasia campaigner to tell how she wanted to end her suffering. The Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) reported that Norma Hall, 72, had died at her Sydney home last Saturday following large doses of morphine.

The death instantly reignited the controversy in Australia over voluntary euthanasia, with right-to-life groups condemning the publicity surrounding the case as an attempt to advance the cause of euthanasia. Darwin-based voluntary euthanasia supporter Dr Philip Nitschke, who helped four cancer patients to die after mercy killing was briefly legalised in the Northern Territory in 1996, told the ABC he was with Ms Hall in her home when she died. But he said had been careful not to provide anything that could be regarded as assistance to commit suicide, which is illegal in Australia. 

No food 

The programme revealed how, suffering from liver, bone and lung cancer, Ms Hall had undergone prolonged chemotherapy treatment. It described how she had rejected the option of continuing treatment, which could have prolonged her life by a few months at best, and elected to starve herself to death. She made a sworn statement saying she wanted to die at home in comfort, and added "This is my own decision, made freely and without any pressure from family, friends and treating doctors." She said she had also discussed her decision with her daughters and her son, the famous Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall. Decision discussed A New South Wales police spokesman said an investigation was going on and a report was being prepared for the coroner. But he declined to comment on reports charges were being considered against Dr Nitschke for assisting a suicide.

Dr Nitschke said from Darwin on Tuesday that he would co-operate with police, although ABC reported that he had initially refused to speak to them. He told ABC that because he had received advice that it would be "dangerous" for him to sedate Ms Hall once she had stopped eating and drinking, he had assembled a team of doctors sympathetic to voluntary euthanasia to co-sign a prescription for the sedatives. One was former Australian health minister Peter Baume, who said he was confident Ms Hall's decision was solely her own. 

Seen by pyschiatrists Mr Baume, who was closely involved in the case as patron of the Coalition for Voluntary Euthanasia, said Ms Hall had been seen by two psychiatrists. "One of the things you've got to be careful of is that someone isn't depressed, and that they're competent," he said. "She was competent and she wasn't depressed." Right-to-Life Australia chairwoman Margaret Tighe said she was disgusted by the participation in the programme of  Dr Nitschke, whom she described as "Australia's doctor death". 'Political pressure'

  "To try and win sympathy and exert political pressure to bring about the legalisation of patient killing in Australia I think is absolutely appalling," Ms Tighe said. 

The Northern Territory government became the first in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia in 1996. But following an outcry by church leaders, right-to-lifers and Northern Territory aborigines, the Australian government passed legislation overriding the law eight months later. 

bulletSOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_1133000/1133303.stm

Group calls for safeguards to allow voluntary euthanasia

The New South Wales Voluntary Euthanasia Society says adequate safeguards need to be in place if people are to practise voluntary euthanasia.

The call comes after the ABC's Four Corners program this week, which revealed a group of southern highlands' residents set up a backyard chemical laboratory to manufacture the prohibited sedative, Nembutal.

Voluntary euthanasia is illegal in Australia, although it was briefly legal in the Northern Territory under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which was overturned by the Federal Government.

Voluntary euthanasia society spokesman Giles Yates says a change to state legislation would allow legal and safe voluntary euthanasia.

"The kind of safeguards that were included in the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act we think are appropriate and should be supported, our society desperately needs voluntary euthanasia, there is so much preventable suffering going on," he said.