Using Dilantin (phenytoin sodium) to strengthen liquid veterinary Nembutal - Exit Q&A May10
Using Dilantin (phenytoin sodium) to strengthen liquid veterinary Nembutal
Liquid veterinary Nembutal is extremely efficient as a euthanasia agent and one bottle of the drug(6gm in 100ml) is effective - see pp 222 of The Peaceful Pill eHandbook
If the quality of the drug is questionable, or has been kept in storage in unfavourable conditions for along period, a simple method if restoring / increasing potency is to dissolve the chemically compatible anti-convulsant Dilantin into the veterinary liquid before use.
Film and details of this process are included in the May 2010 (scheduled for publication 29May) update to the The Peaceful Pill eHandbook
Included in each kit is an extraction syringe for removing the test sample from a sterile bottle of liquid veterinary Nembutal, the required buffer solution and test cassette, along with detailed instructions on how to interpret test results. The kits have a shelf life of 6 months from time of purchase.
Qualitative testing of veterinary liquid and pharmaceutical grade barbiturates is available using the kit.
Why convert veterinary liquid Nembutal solution (sodium pentobarbital) into the solid crystalline form?
Exit has pioneered this process and prepared an explanatory segment, along with film of the steps involved in the process, to be included in the May 29 update of the Peaceful Pill eHandbook.
When this drug is obtained in Mexico or South America in its sealed 100ml glass bottle many people seek to return to their home country with the product. It is illegal to import this drug into many countries and, if detected, the drug will be confiscated.
The 100ml bottles of the veterinary liquid solution are bulky and fragile. when compared to the crystalline solid.
It is a simple matter to convert the dissolved salt from two 100ml bottles of the drug into the very much smaller 10 - 12 gm of solid crystalline drug (see photo). This form of the compound is more stable, can be vacuum packed, and has effectively an infinite shelf life.
Note however that before use the solid must be returned to the more lethal alkaline salt. Detailsof this process, along with conversion tables and film are in production. Scheduled for the June update of The Peaceful Pill eHandbook - see www.peacefulpill.com
A key issue for detectives will be whether Robert Miller and James Robertson were influenced by Philip Nitschke, the Australian medic nicknamed Dr Death. Dr Nitschke, who founded the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, is also the inventor of the “deliverance machine”, a syringe linked to a laptop that can administer a lethal injection.
Dr Nitschke said that he created the device to allow those wishing to take their own life to initiate the process instead of relying on a doctor. A needle is inserted into the arm of the patient before he or she answers questions on the laptop. It is made clear that if they choose the final option they will be injected with a lethal barbiturate.
The system was used legally under the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 to kill four Australians. It was outlawed in 1997.
Last year Dr Nitschke toured Britain giving suicide workshops to the elderly. Although those attending had to be over 50, there are fears that his information is being accessed by the young, the vulnerable, and the mentally ill.
The presence of a webcam in the hotel room where they died will also raise concerns that they may have been followers of suicide chat rooms, where people discuss their fantasies about killing themselves. Such sites attract “suicide voyeurs”.
In April, William Melchert-Dinkel, 47, an American nurse, was charged with goading a British man and a Canadian woman to take their own lives after masquerading as a woman in chatrooms. US prosecutors claim he used pseudonyms including Lia Dao, and Falcon Girl, to persuade people into pacts in which they would hang themselves in front of internet webcams and watch each other die. He is believed to have contacted more than 100 people around the world, and been involved in five other deaths.
Two University of Edinburgh students, Robert Miller, 20, and James Robertson, 19, have apparently committed "suicide by laptop." The pair, childhood friends, used a device attached to a laptop computer to administer a lethal injection, similar to Dr. Philip Nitschke's so-called Deliverance Machine.
On Wednesday, Miller and Robertson were found slumped over in chairs, facing each other, at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Ayr, 80 miles from the University of Edinburgh, where they were both studying for joint maths and physics degrees. A webcam was found close to the pair, and it is believed they may have filmed their final moments.
Strathclyde Police examined the laptop and said they are not treating the deaths as suspicious. Edinburgh University is reportedly working with the police in an attempt to discover more information over the reasons behind the deaths of the students.
Dr. Philip Nitschke was also called Dr. Death. A pro-euthanasia doctor, the "Deliverance Machine" (above) consisted of a laptop connected to a syringe driver that could deliver a lethal dose of medication, after patients answered a yes to a series of questions proposed by the software, "Deliverance." Nitschke was instrumental in the passage of a pro-euthanasia law in 1995.
With the passage of the law, his machine became legal in Australia's Northern Territory. To deliver the dose, a patient had to answer a series of questions delivered to them by the notebook's software, which was dubbed "Deliverance." It was used by four terminally ill Australians before it was banned in 1997, when the law was overturned by the Federal government.
EUTHANASIA advocate Dr Philip Nitschke is giving Darwin seniors a how-to masterclass in computer hacking this Saturday.
The class - open to all - is a new component of safe suicide/voluntary euthanasia workshops that are held by Exit International in Darwin each year.
Dr Nitschke said the masterclass would teach people how to bypass the Federal Government's planned internet censorship of euthanasia websites.
"We will be taking people through two of the most common strategies that will become increasingly used if the legislation is passed," he said.
The Government has mainly pitched the mandatory filter as a way of blocking sites involving child sex abuse and sexual violence, although various other types of sites have also been included.
Dr Nitschke said the Government used "wedge tactics" against those who opposed parts of the mandatory filter by accusing them of helping child molesters. "You get wedged and it makes it very hard for someone to argue about it," he said.
The Darwin masterclass and workshop are the end of a two-month national tour around the nation's capitals.
The average age of those attending was 75 years.
"They're not sick people but they want to know if they deteriorate that they've got at their fingertips some strategy ... for a peaceful death."
Everyone is welcome to attend the public meeting and hacking masterclass, which starts at 1pm at Palmerston Library Community Room.
Only Territorians of sound mind and aged over 50 can then attend a euthanasia workshop - explaining the how-to nuts and bolts - which starts at 2pm.
People can also get the hacking information by visiting www.exitinternational.net and clicking on 'internet masterclass' on the activities dropdown menu.
A new exhibition at the Baillieu Library will explore the history of censorship in Australia.
Banned Books in Australia is curated by Ms Jenny Lee, Associate Professor David Bennett and Associate Professor Richard Pennell, from the Arts Faculty, and designed with the help of recent Faculty of the VCA and Music graduate Ms Jenny Chang.
The exhibition includes books, photographs, documents and original artworks exploring aspects of censorship in Australia.
Associate Professor Bennett says, “It’s important that past and present practices of censorship in Australia be scrutinised and highlighted.
“Freedom of expression, even in a liberal democratic nation that is a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, is a highly circumscribed principle, subject to numerous ‘states of exception’, and the question of its limits is always a political question, subject to contestation by conflicting interest-groups,” he explains.
The exhibition will also delve into current censorship issues surrounding books such as euthanasia activist Phillip Nitschke’s The Peaceful Pill and the controversy surrounding the work of photographer Bill Henson.
Curator of Special Collections at the library Ms Pam Pryde says there are also a number of local and overseas artists contributing to the exhibition. A number of artists have created works responding to the overall theme of censorship whilst others have adopted an individual book to respond to.
Ms Pryde explains that the original idea for this exhibition began in 2007 when the Classification Review Board of the Office of Film and Literature Classification refused classification to two books held in the University’s Special Collections.
The books in question were Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan by the late Abdullah Azzam.
The idea lay dormant for several years until the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand (BSANZ) decided to hold a conference titled To Deprave and Corrupt: Forbidden, Hidden and Censored Books in 2010 (14-16 July, State Library of Victoria), and asked the University of Melbourne and Monash University to host exhibitions to support the conference.
AN EUTHANASIA expert dubbed Dr Death is again planning to hold a euthanasia event in Eastbourne.
Dr Philip Nitschke, from the group Exit International, had hoped to hold the controversial workshop in Eastbourne back in October 2008.
The group had booked the Langham Hotel, but the hotel cancelled the booking amid fears in the town that the event may have broken the law.
Eastbourne Borough Council also confirmed it had refused a booking at one of its venues.
Local churchgoers had planned to hold a prayer vigil outside the seafront hotel during the workshop and former Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson made a complaint to Sussex Police as he was concerned the event was breaking the law. At the time, a spokesperson from Exit International said the group was 'very disappointed' but still hoped to hold the event in Eastbourne.
And this week Dr Nitschke said he had made fresh plans to hold a talk in Eastbourne – but had yet to find a venue. Dr Nitschke was the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, lethal, voluntary injection under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act of the Northern Territory of Australia. The original workshop would have given an overview of euthanasia and the law surrounding it.
Then participants would be asked to sign a disclaimer before taking part in the workshop, when they would be given advice on how to die peacefully and shown DIY suicide kits.
Last May, Dr Nitschke gave a talk in Brighton on assisted suicide, but the workshop was cancelled at the request of the venue.
Senate hearings on euthanasia & internet Canberra Senate - Senate Estimates 24May10
Senator WORTLEY—I have one final question in relation to Google. There are comments that euthanasia sites will be blocked under the government’s proposal. Is that correct?
Senator Conroy—The euthanasia debate is interesting because Philip Nitschke’s book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, promotes a veterinary drug called Nembutal as the peaceful pill and Nitschke helps people obtain the illegal barbiturate from Mexico.
A recent report by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine found that six people in their 20s and eight in their 30s have died from an overdose of this particular drug. In only 11 out of 38 cases has a deceased suffered significant physical illness, deteriorating health or chronic pain. In 27 cases there was no reference to these factors, prompting some to speculate that these people had committed suicide because of psychological or psychiatric reasons.
Philip Nitschke’s response to young people and those with mental illness accessing suicide instructions was that—and I quote: There will be some casualties—but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.
The Rudd government does not agree that some casualties by way of the suicide of vulnerable people is an acceptable balance. It should be noted that it is currently illegal to use a telephone, fax, email or the internet to discuss or research assisted suicide.
The importation of Nembutal is a criminal offence and the penalty is 25 years jail or a $550,000 fine.
In Senate Estimates last night, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned the Government would consider blocking up to 50,000 websites based on new filtering technology that may become available in the future.
The Government’s net filter trials early last year had found there were substantial technical limitations with blocking any more than 10,000 sites using a blacklist-based approach. In response to a question from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam about how the Government would implement a filter based on more than 10,000 blacklisted websites, Conroy boasted he has been told of filtering technology that could block “up to 50,000 sites”.
“Technology evolves,” Conroy declared, noting that the question was hypothetical.
Conroy had earlier used Estimates to launch a savage ten-minute attack on Google over its collection of wi-fi data as part of Street View photo collection. Google has pointedly refused to cooperate with Conroy’s net filter plans. Google’s assistance is necessary because the net filter trial found that a blacklist-based filtering approach breaks down on “high-traffic sites” like Youtube. Asked to define “high traffic sites”, Conroy said they were “popular sites”. He later suggested one definition might be sites that have more than 10% of internet traffic.
However, when asked by Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher what he was actually doing about possible breaches of the Telecommunications Act by Google, Conroy said he thought the Privacy Commissioner was handling the issue.
Conroy later launched an attack on euthanasia websites, which he linked to the deaths of teenagers involved Nembutal, and on Facebook’s problems with privacy settings.
CAPTION: Sacrifice: Former IT consultant Tom Curran is now a full-time carer for his university lecturer partner Marie
A retired computer worker from Co. Wicklow has vowed to help his seriously ill partner end her life - even if it means he will go to prison.
Tom Curran, 62, has promised Marie - whose multiple sclerosis leaves her in constant pain and needing 24-hour care - that he will help her to die with dignity at a time of her choosing.
In an interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday, published today, he insisted: ‘I am prepared to go jail. I know there are consequences to my actions and I will face them. This is something I believe in strongly.’
Mr Curran will be breaking the law and could even face a murder charge, but he says he is willing to accept the consequences in order to spare Marie needless agony.
The full-time carer, from Arklow, has also agreed to open an Irish branch of Exit International, a pro-euthanasia group that provides support and information for those who want to end their lives.
For the past 10 years, Mr Curran has been Marie’s carer. He gave up his job as an IT consultant to look after all her needs, and appeared on the Late Late Show to talk about his role.
Marie’s MS has degenerated to the point that she is in constant pain, is unable to walk or move her arms, has difficulty speaking and swallowing, and needs to be fed and dressed.
The couple are well aware that her condition will only get worse – and Mr Curran says he has promised to help her die when the time is right.
Should he directly administer drugs or a lethal injection to Marie, 58, he could be charged with murder.
If he provided drugs and she took them herself, he could face charges of assisting a suicide, which is illegal under 1993 law: those found guilty can face a term of 14 years.
This is under Section 2/3 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993, which is notable as it decriminalised suicide.
British law is similar. Legal sources say it is unthinkable that euthanasia/assisted suicide will ever be made legal in this country.
Said one: ‘The right to life is paramount under the Constitution. It’s the most fundamental right.’
CAPTION: Activist: Dr Philip Nitschke whose controversial ideas inspired Tom Curran
Charges have been contemplated in only one case, that of Dublin woman Rosemary Toole-Gilhooley, who was assisted in taking her own life by an American, Rev. George Exoo, in 2002.
Irish authorities were unable to secure Exoo’s extradition from the US.
The biggest case of this kind in Irish legal history was that of the Ward of Court Right to Die case in 1995.
The woman involved was in a near permanent vegetative state for 23 years after falling into a coma during a minor operation at 22.
Her family applied to have her artificial feeding and medication terminated so she could die naturally.
The case went to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that her treatment, which involved the implantation of a tube in her abdomen for nourishment, was an interference with her bodily integrity but without it she would die.
In her exceptional case, she was allowed to have her artificial feeding and medication removed, and she died naturally.
However, the court insisted again that any course of action aimed at terminating a life was illegal.
I would be breaking the law if I help Marie to die but I do not want her to suffer. I love her - and I promised...by MARIANNE POWER
CAPTION: Right to die: Should people with terminal illnesses be allowed the choice to end their suffering? (Posed by models)
You could hardly get a more decent and law abiding citizen than Tom Curran. A keen gardener and devoted family man, the retired 62-year-old IT consultant is loved by all who know him.
Yet this quiet, unassuming man admits that he is prepared to end the life of his partner – and face the consequences. Not only that but he is prepared to help others do the same.
‘I am prepared to go to jail,’ says Tom, speaking from his home just outside Arklow, in Co. Wicklow.
‘I know there are consequences to my actions and I will face them. This is something I believe in strongly.’
For the past 10 years Tom has been a full-time carer to his 58-year-old partner, Marie, who has MS. He has watched the disease slowly ravage her body, leaving her in constant pain, unable to walk or move her arms and, most recently, affecting her speech and her ability to swallow.
In February, he shared some of the details of Marie’s agonising condition on a Late Late Show slot about the Carers’ Association.
What Tom didn’t mention was that five years ago, Marie asked him if he would help her to end her life when the time was right.
‘It was when we both realised that things were going downhill,’ says Tom. ‘She asked me if her life became unbearable and her quality of life too poor, would I help her to end it.’
‘The difficulty is that Marie is incapable of administering anything herself and so she needs help. I would be breaking the law in helping her but we have to face the fact that there would be consequences. I am prepared to go to jail.’
After attending a controversial meeting this March held by the Australian pro-euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke - who has been dubbed Dr Death - Tom volunteered to open the first Irish branch of Exit International, an organisation that offers support and information to people who want to die or to help loved ones to die.
‘It may be too late for us - I don’t expect the law to change in my lifetime - but it’s important these things are talked about. People have a right to support and information’
And so it is that, through wanting to help Marie, Tom finds himself in the centre of a national debate on assisted suicide. Far from being a hardline attention-seeking activist, the former IT worker says he was unaware of what he was getting himself into.
‘I suppose I’ve been a bit naïve about it all,’ he admits. ‘I didn’t expect it to be so newsworthy but I feel I have to speak out. I don’t understand why it is legal to kill oneself but illegal to help somebody who is unable to do it herself.
‘It may be too late for us - I don’t expect the law to change in my lifetime - but it’s important these things are talked about. People have a right to support and information.’
This desperately sad story started 15 years ago when Tom met the ‘bubbly, sweet and intelligent’ Marie, through work. She was a UCD lecturer in women’s studies and economics, he had been called in to help with technical aspects of her lecture.
It was ‘attraction at first sight’ and, before long, the couple, who were both divorced and had three children between them, were meeting up regularly. It was shortly afterwards that Marie broke the news that she had a degenerative and incurable illness.
‘She told me about the MS early on,’ says Tom. ‘At that stage, I knew more about the long-term consequences of the disease than she did. I had worked with a colleague who had MS and had seen what a disabling illness it is.
'But she was not suffering badly at that stage and hoped she would be one of the people who are not badly affected. Unfortunately, that kind of person is few and far between.’
Incredibly, Tom was not put off by the bleak prognosis of the disease that attacks the central nervous system, leaving most sufferers wheelchair-bound and in need of full-time care.
‘When I first met Marie, her MS was relapsing and remitting, which meant that every few months she would recover before having another relapse,’ he explains. ‘But over time things got worse; the recovery would not be a full one and then, gradually, there was no recovery at all.
‘With each stage, it got worse. Bit by bit, the illness started taking over more and more of her life.
'The fatigue was the main thing - she was tired out completely after doing her lectures and, as her movement got worse and she relied on a chair and sticks, access to buildings became a problem. We tried everything but, eventually, she had to give her up work. It was depressing for her.’
It was then, 10 years ago, when Marie was 48 and Tom 52, that he made the selfless decision to give up his successful career to be Marie’s full-time carer. He dismisses the idea that not everyone would have done the same in his position.
‘The way we saw it, there were three options: either we could get a stranger in to look after her or we could put her in the home or I could take on the job as carer. We decided on the latter and I don’t regret it for a moment,’ he says matter-of-factly.
In the past decade, Marie’s decline has been rapid and she now needs 24-hour care. While Tom gets help provided for 20 hours a week, the rest of the time, responsibility falls to him.
‘She needs help with everything,’ says Tom. ‘She’s in pain all the time and has constant tremors. Mobility is the main issue - she’s in a wheelchair and, in the past couple of years, she lost the movement in her arms so she has to be fed.
'Her speech has also started to go - she struggles to pronounce words. The latest thing to go is her ability to swallow - there is a danger she will choke on her saliva.’
As her carer, it’s Tom’s job to do all he can to make Marie’s life more comfortable.
‘I’ll wake up about 7.30am and give her her medication,’ he says.
‘The main problem is spasms. Every morning, she’ll wake up and her limbs are rigid which makes moving and dressing impossible. She has medication that helps but it takes an hour to work.
CAPTION: At least six Irish people have died at the Dignitas assisted-suicide clinic in Switzerland, which operates from a series of buildings including the one pictured
‘Then someone comes in to help her get out of bed, get washed and dressed. I can’t tell you how much help it is to have assistance with the lifting. Then I’ll make breakfast and do a bit of cleaning.
‘During the day, I’ll read to her or get her some audio books. We got a voice-activated computer but her speech is too bad to use it.
‘We live in a house with a fine big garden and I took up gardening because Marie is so happy outside listening to the birds.
‘Sometimes she gets frustrated and angry – and I love to see that fight in her. It means the spark is not gone'
‘It’s lovely and peaceful but even getting out of the house is a journey. She’ll usually have a nap in the afternoon because she gets very tired.’
Nights are hard, he admits. ‘You question every little sound. I’m always worried she will have a choking fit. She’ll wake up in pain with spasms. Her hands get locked in one position and they go so rigid that she wakes up frozen in the bed.’
Every day, Tom marvels at how this former university lecturer copes with her condition. He admits: ‘She takes it incredibly well, I don’t think I could be as passive.
‘Sometimes she gets frustrated and angry – and I love to see that fight in her. It means the spark is not gone.
‘We both believe in getting on with things. These are the cards we’ve been dealt and there is no point in moaning.
‘Some people have a better quality of life, some people have a worse one than us – but this is our life.
‘In many ways, our quality of life is good – we’re together most of the time. Of course, there are disagreements when we’re tired and irritable but we get through them.’
But Tom is putting a brave face on a heartbreaking scenario. Every day, he has to watch the woman he loves deteriorate in front of his eyes, with the knowledge that things are only going to get worse. The most distressing thing is seeing the amount of pain that Marie is in.
‘She is in pain all the time; her whole body hurts, her muscles ache,’ says Tom. ‘That’s the bit that’s the most depressing for me to see and that’s the bit that I know will only get worse.
'The problem is that it gets to the stage where, if you’re taking enough drugs to get rid of the pain, then there is no quality of life – you are a zombie, a vegetable.’
It is this fate that Marie wants to avoid at all costs.
Tom says he can’t remember the exact day that she first asked him if he would help her to die but that he knew it had been coming.
‘It was five years ago when things had really started to go downhill. I had been thinking about it for a while and, obviously, so had she. She said that when things become very difficult, she wanted to end her life with dignity and painlessly. She asked me if I would help.’
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are both illegal in this country and arouse fierce debate and impassioned opinion on both sides.
While right-to-die campaigners believe the terminally ill should have the right to choose to end their lives peacefully - rather than face a slow, agonising death - opponents argue that euthanasia is open to abuse and is an affront to the concept of the sanctity of life.
But Tom says he had no doubts. ‘It was an awful conversation to have, of course it was, but there was never any doubt in my mind. I told her I would support her in anything she needed. It gave her comfort.’
But despite his resolve, he is anxious. ‘The thought of it is horrific. It frightens me to think I might end her life but my job is to care for her and love her and that means I do not want her to suffer. If the time does come, it’s going to be difficult. I don’t know how I’ll have the strength to go through with it but I’ll have to. I just wish that we could have some help.’
Although Tom says both their children know about the agreement, he is reluctant to involve them in case they be legally implicated.
Many people in Tom and Marie’s situation would fly to Switzerland where assisted suicide - different to euthanasia because there is no doctor involved - is legal. In the past few years, at least six Irish people have died at the Dignitas assisted-suicide clinic but this isn’t want Marie and Tom want.
‘In our own case, we are not prepared to make that trip. The journey would be too traumatic, and to die in a strange place with strange people would take away her dignity,’ says Tom.
‘I want to know how to go about a peaceful end in our own home. That’s the information I want. What drugs are available? How do I administer them?’
It was the need for answers to this kind of question that made Tom go to the Dublin meeting held in March by the controversial euthanasia activist Dr Nitschke.
‘The pain will get progressively worse and it will get to the stage that the drugs needed to relieve her pain will turn her into a vegetable. If it was me, I would want to end it'
The Australian physician has helped four people to die in Australia and has written books including The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which advises people on how to die using methods such as overdosing on morphine or making ‘DIY Peaceful Pills’. The event was surrounded by controversy, as four venues pulled out of hosting it.
‘I went with an open mind. I wasn’t sure what to expect,’ says Tom.
‘I thought there would be a lot of hostility at the event - and the police did too - but there were no protesters.
‘Everyone who came was there because they wanted to be. There were about 60 people in all, including a few elderly couples realising that this was something they wanted to look at, and people with disabilities.
‘It was such a comfort to be in a room where everyone felt the same way – and where you could ask questions.
‘Dr Nitschke’s talk was on where to get information and how to process that information. There was a lot of talk about the legal side of things.
‘In this country, it is not illegal to kill yourself but it is illegal to ask somebody to help you if you are physically unable.
‘During the meeting, Dr Nitschke made an announcement that if anyone was interested in starting an Exit in Ireland to let him know.
‘I went forward. It certainly wasn’t planned but if felt like the right thing to do. People have a right to information.’
Tom admits the group is ‘very much in its infancy’ and that he sees it primarily as a source of information and support – but he does believe the laws around assisted suicide should be changed.
‘I would like people in our situation to get some sort of help. It is illegal to help somebody to commit suicide who can’t do it themselves - you are taking their right to die away from them.
‘For years, doctors have administered morphine to help end lives - and the choice is taken out the hands of the patient. I think it should be the person themselves who makes the decision.’
Although Tom says everyone he has spoken to has been supportive of his position – including both his children and Marie’s – there has, of course, been a backlash.
The Irish Association for Palliative Care and the Pro-Life Campaign have both come out against assisted suicide, saying that it goes against the sanctity of life, is open to abuse and will make vulnerable people feel their lives are not valuable.
‘I don’t have all the answers and I find myself contradicting myself. I understand the argument that vulnerable people could be exploited,’ admits Tom.
‘The dangers are obviously there but in Ireland there is a growing number of deaths by knives - does that mean we should stop selling knives?
‘There will always be people who take advantage but that shouldn’t stop the vast majority from having their rights.
‘I was born a Catholic but I consider myself a Christian and a humanitarian. This does not go against what I believe in.
‘I’m complying with humanity – it’s inhumane to let someone suffer.’
As for the ins and outs of how the laws could be changed to allow assisted suicide while safeguarding against possible exploitation of society’s most vulnerable, he admits he is not an authority.
Countries such as Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and the American state of Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, each has its own set of rules.
‘I would like to hear from any lawyers who might be able to help us with this. It’s all such a grey area. In an ideal world, it would be legal for people to come in and help and take the job away from the carer.’
As for what will happen in their own situation, Tom doesn’t know.
‘There is no definite plan – nothing is positively decided,’ says Tom. 'I can’t picture doing it any more than I can picture my own death.’
But Tom is sure of one thing: they face a difficult future.
‘It’s possible her speech will go more. There’s a risk of pneumonia because your immune system is down and you don’t have the strength to cough.
‘The pain will get progressively worse and it will get to the stage that the drugs needed to relieve her pain will turn her into a vegetable.
CONTROVERSIAL euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke has ruled out running for the seat of Menzies at the next federal election, despite recently leading a public campaign against the Federal Government’s proposed internet filter.
Dr Nitschke confirmed he would not contest the seat, held by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, as he has done twice before, because he believes plans for the internet filter would likely be shelved until after the election.
The founder of the Doncaster-based voluntary euthanasia group Exit International said a website relating to his book, The Peaceful Pill, was one of the 1000 sites to be blacklisted under the proposed filter.
>> Should the Federal Government filter what we can access on the internet or should people be free to choose what they look at? Post your view below.
Dr Nitschke, who ran for the seat of Menzies as an independent candidate in 1998 and 2007, said the proposed internet censorship legislation was a “breach of civil rights, morally questionable and technically difficult to implement”.
“There are better ways to regulate the internet than with a blanket ban that erodes a personal right to information in a non-transparent and heavy-handed way,” Dr Nitschke said.
Menzies Greens candidate Chris Padgham agreed, saying the proposed web filter was developed by people who “don’t understand and fear the internet”.
Mr Andrews said while he believed children should be protected from inappropriate material on the internet, the proposed filter would not protect them from material in chat rooms and email.
“I would like to see an independent review of the (filter) trials,” Mr Andrews said.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s spokeswoman, Suzie Brady, said sites that would be banned under the Federal Government’s filter included those containing child pornography, bestiality, sexual violence, instruction in crime and terrorist acts.
She said the legislation would be introduced to Parliament once “technical and transparency measures” had been considered further.
Exit International, the controversial pro-euthanasia organisation, is setting up a group in Ireland. The first advocacy group of its kind in Ireland will be headed by Dublin man Tom Curran.
Curran said the association in Ireland would be a source of information and support to people interested in learning more about euthanasia and assisted suicide. He said people had ‘‘a right to access information’’.
Curran’s partner had multiple sclerosis and, as her condition had become progressively worse, he said they had discussed options such as assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Curran said the group was ‘‘very much in its infancy’’, but planned to hold its first meeting before the end of July. He said he became involved with Exit International after attending a meeting held by Dr Philip Nitschke, its founder.
Nitschke came to Ireland earlier this year, but a campaign by anti-euthanasia groups resulted in four venues cancelling Exit International’s bookings.
It is a crime in Ireland to assist a suicide or euthanasia. Consultant Dr Regina McQuillan, who chairs the Irish Association for Palliative Care, said the association was opposed to any change in the legislation.
She said any change would send out the message that the sick and the frail were a burden on society. She added that most people who were ‘‘very ill wanted any treatment that could prolong their lives’’, but promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide sent out the message that those lives were not worth living.
A DAD took his own life with helium after logging on to a suicide advice website run by an expert branded Doctor Death.
The family of tragic Jack Fox have revealed the bizarre details of his death after ending a two-year fight for a criminal probe.
They believe he received help to choke himself with the gas - because two canisters found near the scene were switched off. A computer search revealed joiner Jack, 44, of Gairloch, Wester Ross, had viewed the website of controversial Australian Dr Philip Nitschke.
The pro-euthanasia medic - founder of Exit International - has caused controversy by embarking on world tours to offer advice on suicide.
Jack's dad, Jackie, said: "We asked the police about the helium canisters because they had apparently been turned off and were out of Jack's reach when we found him lying dead.
"But they didn't take fingerprints. Later on, we were shocked to find cuttings about Dr Death and evidence on Jack's computer that he had accessed the website Exit International.
"We even found the order form for the helium gas canisters which he ordered from an English firm. We couldn't believe it."
Taxi driver Jackie tried in vain to revive Jack after finding him in his bedroom in June 2008.
Since his death - recorded on the certificate as being caused by helium inhalation - the family have fought for a criminal inquiry without success. Jackie has since asked police to launch a probe and written to prosecutors and politicians, including First Minister Alex Salmond, begging for help.
He said: "I'm shocked the sites are allowed to exist.
"My son was so depressed and distressed by what was happening in his life, it must have seemed a way out."
Nitschke's website includes advice on how to use gases such as helium.
He made a visit to Scotland in May last year to hold a "suicide workshop".
His "exit kits" have been outlawed in Australia but he insists they do not break British laws.
Nitschke, 63, said: "There is brief record of contact with J. Fox, UK. There is no detail listed in the Exit database from early 2008."
Assisted-suicide campaigner MSP Margo MacDonald said: "I'm trying to get dignity in dying and for people to have an exit from this world that is stress-free."
Jack left a suicide note. The letter - to his daughters, now aged 15 and 16 - states: "I can't live like this any more. I am shattered. I feel so bad for this but it's all I can do. I have no choice."
A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "There were no suspicious circumstances in this case."
Australia's contentious Internet filter hasn't even been legislated yet, but that hasn't stopped enterprising VPN providers from marketing their services directly to Aussies.
Hot on the heels of revelations that there will be no legal repercussions for people that circumvent Stephen Conroy’s proposed Internet filter, it appears overseas virtual private network providers are wasting no time building a market for one-click filter circumvention.
VPNSecure.me, a provider of encrypted Web proxy services, charges just $US8 per month for a service that will allow Australians to circumvent the filter’s access restrictions. Although the service has been around for some time, its Web page now reflects the company’s new marketing strategy with the top-page statement that the product will “Bypass the Australian internet censorship from conroy (sic)”.
In a nod to search engine optimisation, the site's title now reads “VPN Tunnel Australian internet censorship work around stephen conroy filter”. Billed as an “easy to setup proxy and vpn”, VPNSecure “support all devices and platforms” including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android. The organisation offers “huge usage limits, if we feel you are abusing the service, we will let you know.”
But the company isn’t the only one cozying up to potential Australian customers: rival privacy.io has added the AUD to its list of pricing – addressing a presumed Australian customer base by listing its prices (also $8 per month) in Australian dollars alongside the EUR, USD and GBP. Canadian VPN provider Blacklogic doesn’t mention Australia by name, but markets its $US15/month service to customers that “live in a country that restricts your Internet access”. Similar wording is used by many other VPN providers (a sample list can be found here), although Australia hasn't been singled out by most yet.
VPNSecure.me, however, isn’t wasting any time. Its move to market to Australians reflects the country’s growing worldwide notoriety in the wake of planned legislation to filter the access of all Australian Internet users. Opponents of the filter have become vocal in their efforts to educate people to circumvent it, with pro-euthanasia group Exit International recently joining forces with the Pirate Party of Australia to teach senior citizens how proxies and VPNs work. Computerworld Australia published the slides used in those classes, making the information widely available online.
Widespread public awareness of the planned lack of penalties for circumventing the filter has challenged Conroy to justify the expenditure of millions of dollars on a controversial policy that has polarised the online public and drawn attention at the highest levels of governments in the United States and elsewhere. This week, Conroy told the ABC’s Four Corners program that he and the US government were “going to agree to disagree” on the policy. Yet despite the uproar against the filter, it was revealed recently that the laws haven’t even been drafted yet, although Conroy has repeatedly refused to rule out introducing the legislation before the upcoming election.
Nonetheless, his office has not been totally quiet on the potential for systematic circumvention of the filter. “We would be concerned if an ISP actively promoted sites or instructions for the specific purpose of circumventing the filter,” it recently wrote in a statement. “The Department is exploring whether the legislation needs to make this deliberate and specific promotion of circumvention an offence or whether it is already adequately addressed through existing offences in legislation.”
Exit International tells us that the URL for “The Peaceful Pill Handbook” website has been refused classification and is on
1) Is this true?
2) If true, does this mean that the entire website (i.e all the pages on the site that are linked to from the home page) has
been Refused Classification?
3) If a mandatory filter comes into place, will the entire website therefore be blocked?
Response by ACMA
1. No. The home page of the web site relating to The Peaceful Pill Handbook was classified R18+ by the Classification Board.
As the page is not subject to a restricted access system it is prohibited content under clause 20 of Schedule 7 to the BSA, and it is therefore on the ‘ACMA blacklist’ currently maintained by the ACMA pursuant to the requirements of Schedule 5 to the BSA. Some other items of online content related to The Peaceful Pill Handbook - including the e-book itself and video clips depicting the manufacture of ‘the peaceful pill’ - that are hosted on other web sites, have been classified RC and the URLs for those pages are also on the ACMA blacklist. In the case of the e-book, the Classification Review Board classified the print version of The Peaceful Pill Handbook RC on 24 February 2007 (not in connection with an ACMA investigation). Under clause 35 of Schedule 7 to the BSA, the electronic version is also classified RC. In its 24 February 2007 decision, the CRB stated that:
175) The Review Board in a unanimous decision classified the publication ‘RC’ (Refused Classification) as it instructs in
matters of crime relating to the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates), including the attempt to manufacture a
prohibited drug (barbiturates); the storage of substances being used for the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates); and gives instructions enabling individuals to “take part in” the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates).
176) Further, the Review Board determined, in a 6-1 majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crime relating to
the possession of a prohibited drug (barbiturates) and importation of a prohibited substance and the importation of a border controlled drug (barbiturates).
177) Additionally, the Review Board determined, in a 5-2 majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crimes under
Coroners legislation in relation to reportable deaths.
2. See answer to 1. The ACMA does not investigate and take action in relation to entire web sites. Classification
applications are made in relation to specific web pages, images or other files and the relevant URLs for those specific items are added to the list if the URL is the subject of a public complaint and the content is prohibited content.
3. The Government has stated that ISPs will be required to block URLs of content that has been classified RC, following an investigation of a complaint by the ACMA. Under that proposal, if the ACMA received a complaint about a page of the site in question, and if the Classification Board classified the page RC, then the URL for that specific page would be placed on the proposed RC content list to be blocked by ISPs.
Euthanasia is an issue that divides societies, although it enjoys 80 per cent popular support in Australia and Britain. The issue, however, should be clear. If individuals have the right to their own lives, then euthanasia should be legalised.
The term “voluntary euthanasia” is often used by the state-based Voluntary Euthanasia and Dying with Dignity Associations around Australia and emphasises the voluntary nature of euthanasia. Another definition defines euthanasia as a deliberate act intended to cause the death of the patient, at that patient’s request, for what he or she sees as being in his/her best interests, and clearly euthanasia’s voluntary nature is implicit in this definition.
Regardless of how euthanasia is defined, most of the opposition to euthanasia comes from people who have religious motives and imply that euthanasia is not voluntary, that people would be coerced into a decision. It is precisely the voluntary nature of euthanasia that makes it ethically right.
Many elderly Australians are now choosing to take control of their lives, seeking information and developing their own end-of-life solutions.
Exit International, Dr Philip Nitshcke’s euthanasia advocacy organisation, provides accurate and concise information about end-of-life choices. Its long-term goal is responsible and ethical law reform, such as the Swiss model of decriminalising assisted suicide. The media has reported on terminally ill Australians travelling overseas to access euthanasia through the Swiss legislation, travelling overseas to acquire suitable lethal drugs, or attempting to manufacture drugs to have something in the medicine cabinet - just in case their illness worsens. These people are not mass murderers; they are ordinary (usually elderly) Australians who want control of their lives. It is regrettable that Australians are forced to do this because of the absence of an Australian legislative regime.
People who would choose to have voluntary euthanasia are concerned about their dignity and quality of life, rather than the extension of their life if this involves unnecessary pain, suffering and indignity. If those who oppose euthanasia wish to have unnecessary pain, suffering and indignity, then they may do so. That is everybody’s choice. But euthanasia opponents must not deny others that choice and arrogantly insist, often though sustained pressure for legislative opposition to euthanasia, that others too must suffer.
In 2009, a landmark decision in Western Australia's Supreme Court gave Christian Rossiter, a Perth quadriplegic, the right to refuse food from his care provider on the condition he understood the consequences of his actions. He said that "It's comforting to know that when you say you're going to starve yourself to death no one's going to come along in the night when you've lost consciousness and keep you alive to suffer a bit longer."
This court decision has however posed the following intriguing question. If people have the right to refuse food and die; starving to death over a couple of weeks is inhumane; and societies should not allow people to die inhumanely, then shouldn’t it be reasonable for parliaments to develop a legislative regime for euthanasia to allow people to die humanely and with dignity?
It is difficult to comprehend how many politicians could ignore, or at least fail to act in response to, the incredibly moving and very sad story of Angelique Flowers, the 31-year-old writer who recently died after years of Crohn’s disease and then agonising bowel cancer. She had good palliative care, but it did not alleviate her suffering. Nobody should have to suffer to the extent she did, and vomit faecal matter at the end, but she did. That she had to suffer that way could drive many other Australians to an early demise, in fear, not of death, but of unbearable pain and suffering.
The Pope’s arrogant statement that the ill should pray to find “the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God” is meaningless to those who do not believe in a god, and to many who do. One might suspect that Angelique Flowers would have been very unimpressed, and that most would classify the Pope’s stance as inhumane.
In her eloquent video appeal to the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, which was forwarded to him by Dr Nitschke, Angelique said that “all I want after 16 years of painful Crohn’s disease and now cancer is to die a pain-free peaceful death”. “Because euthanasia was banned in Australia I am denied this right …” Further she said “the law wouldn’t let a dog suffer the agony I’m going through before an inevitable death. It would be put down. Yet under the law, my life is worth less than a dog’s.” Sadly, Kevin Rudd did not respond to the video.
Politicians should consider heartfelt appeals such as that of Angelique Flowers. We cannot, as a civilised society, continue to let people suffer when they are in the most desperate of situations. The large majority of Australians are dissatisfied with the denial of the right to die and the continued intransigence and reluctance of many politicians to support terminally ill Australians. All we need is more politicians with compassion, legislative skills and courage to ensure that individuals have the right to live, and end, their lives with dignity. This is a right that Angelique Flowers was denied. No Australians should have to suffer as she did.
Competent legislators/politicians should be able to develop an effective legislative system for euthanasia. However, Kevin Rudd has been unable to confirm when debate would occur on Greens Senator Bob Brown’s private member’s bill originally introduced a couple of years ago. Senator Brown’s Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2008 would give territory governments the same powers as state governments to legislate for voluntary euthanasia if they wished. Until this Bill is debated in the Parliament, territories are unable to move forward on euthanasia. Whether they vote for euthanasia in their jurisdictions will of course depend on the competence of their legislators and the will of the electorate, but they should at least have the right to enact euthanasia legislation.
Mr Rudd said some time ago that he wouldn't comment on a suggestion euthanasia was already being practised illegally in Australia (Sydney Morning Herald, May 2, 2008). Avoiding the issue doesn’t make it go away.
The Australian Opposition Leader, a devout Catholic, is just as obstinate in his opposition to euthanasia. Politicians who do not act to alleviate the suffering of Australians are arrogantly imposing their personal views on other Australians. It is interesting that when issues such as euthanasia are debated in parliaments, politicians are not required to adopt a party-political position, and are instead allowed to vote according to their “conscience”. It would be hypocritical for anti-euthanasia politicians to vote to impose their religious values on Australians when they would not accept a party-political position being imposed on them. If politicians demand choice (in voting), then they should allow ordinary Australians choice on euthanasia.
I imagine even religious politicians would like to have the choice of dying like Angelique Flowers or having a more peaceful and dignified death. They should not however be allowed to choose for others. Euthanasia is about individual choice and dignity, and for that reason it is a rational and humane cause. Until parliaments have the courage and commitment to act and provide that choice, ordinary Australians will continue to take matters into their own hands.
About the Author
David Swanton is a Canberra-based ethicist and scientist (see www.ethicalrights.com). He is also ACT Chapter Coordinator for Exit International.
Critics of the mandatory filter say the refused classification category is far too broad. (ABC News: Damien Larkins, file photo)
Senator Conroy says the scope of the content covered by the Government's proposed mandatory filter will not be widened by a future Labor government.
"We're making it very clear, this is our policy: refused classification only," Mr Conroy told the ABC's Four Corners program.
"If a majority of the Parliament in the future want to broaden the classification, well then, Australians should stand up and say 'just a minute', and I'll be one of them."
Eighteen months ago Senator Conroy galvanised his critics by suggesting that the scope of a mandatory internet filter would include any online material that was deemed to be "prohibited content" by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
"You can't opt in or out of the prohibited material," he said at the time.
Prohibited material includes not just X-rated content, but also any R-18+ and MA-15+ content that is not protected by an ACMA-approved age-verification gateway restricting access to underage users.
However, last December, Senator Conroy announced the revised secret blacklist of material to be censored by internet service providers (ISPs) would be limited to individual webpages that had been refused classification by the Classification Board.
Refused classification material includes child pornography and detailed instruction in crime or drug use.
But it also includes any material that the Classification Board judges will "offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults".
Critics of the mandatory filter say the category is far too broad.
Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby says he finds it "quite amazing" that anyone would oppose the filter plans.
"The material that the Government is looking to block is illegal material," he told Four Corners.
"I think if people believe that they should be using child pornography, bestiality material, sexual violence or instructions to crime, then really somebody somewhere should be raising a file on them.
"The bigger principle here is to establish the principle that the internet is not a free zone and I think that given the movement of technology and given the expectation of society that what the Government is proposing is therefore a good solution."
On the other side of the debate, Google Australia's head of policy, Iarla Flynn, says the proposed mandatory filter goes too far.
"It's a heavy-handed measure," he said.
"Our primary concern is that the scope of content which the Government is seeking to block is too wide. Remember, this would apply to every internet user in Australia, whether they like it or not."
Legislation to introduce a mandatory internet filter is unlikely to come before Parliament before the next election. But Senator Conroy has made it clear he remains committed to its introduction.
Critics of the filter point to several examples of web content that they say could be blocked under a mandatory filter.
Pages about safe injecting and sites giving tips on how to create graffiti are among those that could be blocked.
Senator Conroy told Four Corners he will not be deciding what is on the list.
"Individual pages will be determined by - at arm's length from government - by the Classification Board, as it should be," he said.
"Stephen Conroy and the Government do not make the individual decisions."
Also liable to be blocked are web pages giving advice on assisted suicide.
The online version of the Peaceful Pill Handbook, written by euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke, has been refused classification.
It can be accessed online from Australia now because the website is hosted overseas. Under a mandatory filter however, it will be blocked from view here, but remain visible to internet users overseas.
Critics of the filter say elements of some extremely popular adult websites may also be censored in future.
The vast majority of adult material on the internet is hosted overseas, and is not directly regulated by ACMA.
One adult film which could be blocked online is called Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge. Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party describes it as "a very mainstream adult film".
This film, which is hosted on websites across the world, is sold in Australian sex shops in two separate parts because it depicts sexual acts, and because there is also violence in the film.
But Ms Patten argues the violence is not sexual violence.
"We're talking cartoon ghosts, cartoon skeletons fighting and pirates having sword-fights," she said.
"So all of that sort of action and adventure scenes had to be put into one disc, and all of the sex scenes put into another disc. This is the only country in the world where this film is split like this and has to be seen separately."
Ms Patten says that if attempts had been made to sell the film unedited it would have been refused classification.
The Classification Board confirmed this view.
"Within the context of actual sex, violence cannot be accommodated, and therefore the film, if it contained actual sex and violence, would have been refused classification," it said.
In future Ms Patten argues every website where the film can be viewed will be liable to be blocked by the Government's mandatory filter.
Other critics of the policy, speaking on Four Corners, point to the policy changes that have occurred since Labor announced a family-friendly cyber-safety policy before the last election.
That policy promised that: "A Rudd Labor Government will require ISPs to offer a clean feed internet service to all homes, schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as public libraries.
"Labor's ISP policy will prevent Australian children from accessing any content that has been identified as prohibited by ACMA, including sites such as those containing child pornography and X-rated material."
The Government has now accepted that it will not be possible to mandate ISPs to provide a broad-brush clean feed internet service in this way.
In defending its current policy to limit the scope of censored online material to content which has been refused classification, Senator Conroy concedes that "if you try and do a broader range of things at the mandatory level, then you are likely to have a serious impact on the speed of the internet".
Colin Jacobs, vice-chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, says the current plan has no cyber-safety benefit and is a clear move away from the policy Labor originally promised.
Chief executive of the Internet Industry Association Peter Coroneos agrees.
"A lot of the content that families really are concerned about for their children - things like violent material, racial hatred material, material which promotes race hate, maybe even just adult content that you wouldn't want your children to see - none of that will be picked up by this filtering solution," he said.
Voluntary scheme ruled out
The Government has also conceded that it will not be able to censor high-traffic websites like YouTube and that the filter will be possible to circumvent.
Even so, Senator Conroy is refusing to follow the example of other countries, such as the UK, Canada and New Zealand, by agreeing to limit the scope of the filter to child pornography and by allowing ISPs to filter out child pornography on a voluntary basis.
Mr Coroneos told Four Corners he has approached the Minister offering a voluntary scheme.
"We've actually approached the government on several occasions to propose a solution that would be consistent with best practice in other jurisdictions," he said.
"But for whatever reasons, the government is intent on pursuing a legislative course here."
Senator Conroy is determined to legislate.
"They don't need me to invite them, firstly, they could just do it," he said.
"They could have announced it five years ago. They could have announced it 10 years ago. They could have announced it yesterday. They've got a policy opposing any form of voluntary ISP filtering of anything."
Senator Conroy told Four Corners he and the United States Government are "going to agree to disagree" on the issue of a mandatory internet filter.
The US State Department has raised concerns about the proposal with the Australian Government.
While standing firm on his intent to legislate, Senator Conroy does concede that he has been troubled by the secrecy of the blacklist which will contain the list of webpages to be blocked if a mandatory filter is introduced.
"One of the things I've really struggled with, genuinely struggled with, is this argument that you should publish the list," he said.
"Because unlike with books or movie titles, when you publish those you don't give access to the material.
"The problem is if you publish a webpage address, you give direct access to the material."
Watch the full report on tonight's Four Corners at 8:30pm on ABC1.
About 200 elderly people have been shown how to bypass internet filters to access information on do-it-yourself suicide, ahead of federal government plans to restrict access to certain web content.
Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide advocacy group Exit International held a "hacking masterclass" workshop on Sydney's north shore on Friday.
Those at the workshop were given tips on how to use proxy servers and virtual networks to slip past filters, such as the ones the government is proposing, to find information on "safe suicide".
Exit International founder and director Philip Nitschke said he wasn't concerned about the legal ramifications of holding the workshop.
The workshop was closed to the media but reporters were able to attend a briefing beforehand.
"We're not concerned because the law hasn't come in yet," Dr Nitschke said at a community centre in Chatswood where the workshop was held.
"In fact, we've recently heard that the federal government, at least (Communications Minister) Stephen Conroy, has almost suggested that when the law comes in, it may not be a crime to tell people how you could bypass it."
The government in 2009 announced plans to block access to certain websites discussing euthanasia and assisted suicide, which is against the law, as well as sites devoted to pornographic and other illegal activities.
The government and Senator Conroy have been accused of censoring the internet.
Dr Nitschke said it was important to allow access to accurate information for people who were interested in ending their lives.
"If you know what you're doing, then you're not so afraid of the options and you then have choice, and when you have choice you're less inclined to do desperate and dangerous things," he said.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263).
The government has postponed its web-filtering legislation to defuse it as an election issue
IT was ironic that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the postponement of his internet filtering legislation via an adviser last week. Advice was not something he was fond of taking. Sensing a voter backlash on the legislation, which was supposed to be introduced into the parliament before the federal election, Rudd and Conroy are banking on removing it as an election issue. But will they?
If Conroy had introduced the legislation before the election, he might have risked the ire of the Greens and Electronic Frontiers Australia, but at least it would have been done and dusted. It would then be up to other political parties to say that they would try to overturn it, a much more difficult task. Now the election could be turned in part into a referendum on the issue.
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Labor's private polling on internet filtering has consistently shown that a large number of computer-illiterate mums and dads are worried about what their kids can access online. They want Conroy to make it safer for them. This is the reason he has continued to withstand so much virulent criticism from those who do not live in a nuclear family and who do not feel threatened by the internet. They include people who use it for business, those who use it for pleasure and those, especially in their 20s and30s, who use it as a way of social networking.
On this point Conroy has seriously misunderstood the fears that business has about how a national internet filter could degrade our already under-performing online environment. Not just the technical performance of internet service providers, which will have to scan all their traffic all the time, but whether he will blacklist international business sites such as Amazon and YouTube that sell or offer a host of material that would be refused classification (RC) under Australia's proposed prudish censorship laws.
He also has miscalculated the number of people who use the internet to seek out sexual material. At last count there were 238 million adult sex sites on the internet and millions of searches every day are for sexually related material. Does Conroy think all these people live in Upper Volta or New Zealand? His insistence on calling them pedophiles and perverts has only hardened their resolve to bring him down. Sexual pleasure on the internet is a personal freedom that many adults will not give up lightly.
The networking and social sites are the new pubs and clubs for generations X and Y, and they resent government intrusion into these areas like a Digger would resent government monitoring the local RSL. Conroy is oblivious to these concerns and, privately, very angry these people won't see his point of view. It's a Mexican stand-off where Conroy has put his revolver back into its holster but it's still cocked and loaded.
There is every chance a post-election internet filter will be more censorious than the proposed pre-election one. The Rudd government has been quietly increasing controls on sexual material coming into the country through other means. Anyone coming back to Australia from an overseas trip now has a new question on their incoming passenger card. It asks if you have any pornography in your suitcase. They've also raised the bar for those who bring in more than 25 DVDs that would be refused classification such as a DIY euthanasia film or an adult film where a couple spanks each other; both of which are available on Amazon and YouTube. Yet you can get five years' jail for them now.
Australian Christian Lobby chief executive Jim Wallace has boasted publicly of having numerous meetings with Conroy about banning sexual imagery in Australian homes and Rudd addressed the group's national conference last November. With another four years to run after an election win, Conroy could go back to the original plan he floated, which was to blacklist the X18+ classification entirely.
Conroy changed his mind about this one night on SBS television's Insight program in March last year when challenged by Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten. She pointed out X18+ material was legal in Australia and that filtering legal adult erotica would be the thin end of the wedge.
Suddenly, he changed his policy to "we will only ban material that is refused classification and already illegal".
Curiously, Conroy fronted Patten in the green room after the show and regaled her with "Why didn't you just call me about this? We could have sorted it out. You didn't have to set up a political party against us."
The threat of a new party focused on the internet filter didn't deter him, though. Not even blinding inconsistencies and duplications such as the fact the new blacklist of illegal sites will sit on top of an existing blacklist that has different parameters. Under the present Broadcasting Services Act introduced by the Howard government in 1999, the Australian Communications and Media Authority maintains a blacklist of prohibited content that includes X18+ content, R18+ content that does not have a restricted access system and content that is even classified MA15+ and provided by a mobile premium service. This list is secret to the public and supplied to filtering companies.
According to Conroy, this list will remain alongside the new one, which will blacklist only refused classification material. Why?
Unbelievably, the Coalition is edging closer to supporting this farce unless it degrades the network or can be proven to be technically obstructive. Coalition communications spokesman Tony Smith is beginning to shift from John Howard's old policy, which was that the millions of dollars that government spent on providing free end-user software to families should be put to use by parents without having to duplicate the whole thing at ISP level.
Through senator Scott Ludlam, the Greens appear to be leading the charge in the parliament against the filter. But when you consider they preselected the architect of Conroy's internet filter, Clive Hamilton, at last December's Higgins by-election, you have to wonder about their commitment. There are plenty of rumours going around that they will do it again. Preselecting Hamilton for a marginal Victorian reps seat would be a huge mistake for the Greens and would undermine much of Ludlam's efforts to date. And that pretty much leaves the Sex Party, a political party that was founded on the issue of internet filtering, to lead the charge.
Conroy may think he has won the battle but this war is far from over. In the green room no one can hear you scream.
Unmonitored, unreported and completely legal.
The Federal Government's $23.8m ISP-level internet filtering initiative will not block encrypted content or web applications and can be circumvented legally, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has admitted.
In an official response to parliamentary questions on notice released yesterday, Senator Conroy said he had attended an hour-long demonstration of filter circumvention on 5 June 2009.
He was shown how to get around the ISP-level filter using free proxy network TOR and Virtual Private Network (VPN) techniques at the Enex TestLab in Victoria.
Although Enex expected "technically competent" users to be able to circumvent the filter, Conroy said monitoring circumvention attempts would not be required by the Government.
"ISPs will not be required to block circumvention attempts by their customers or end users," he said.
While he said it would be "irresponsible" of the Government to publish circumvention techniques, the Government took no measures to prevent other organisations from doing so.
Euthanasia advocacy group Exit International held a "hacking masterclass" for senior citizens last month, and Electronic Frontiers Australia planned to make public as much information about the filter as possible.
When asked if an ISP would be held responsible for knowingly allowing customers to bypass the filter, Conroy reiterated that ISPs would not be required to block circumvention attempts.
He said the same to whether ISPs would be allowed to offer a service or product that enabled circumvention.
"The capacity of filters to detect and provide warnings on circumvention was not tested during the pilot as none of the filtering solutions provided such granular controls including monitoring and alerting, and it is not a requirement of the Government's policy," he said.
Internet Industry Association (IIA) CEO Peter Coroneos was sceptical of the filter's effectiveness.
"While we support many of the Government's efforts in the online security sphere, we aren't convinced that it [the filter] will have anything more than symbolic value," he told iTnews.
While the IIA did not believe that the internet should be "unregulated and unrestricted in all ways", Coroneos said the filter would only give families a false belief that their children could not access unsavoury material.
"It remains our concern that much of the worst of the worst content will escape the filter and people are given a false sense of security," he said.
"The reality is, access to this content remains unaddressed and really could only be addressed by the families themselves."
Last week, Conroy's Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said filter legislation would not be introduced to parliament until "later this year".
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, whose questions on notice prompted Conroy's current response, urged the Government to abandon its net filter plan completely.
"The Government needs to clearly indicate that it's going to scrap the idea completely and work on a new policy in collaboration with all stakeholders," Ludlam said in a statement last Thursday.
"Opposition against the internet filter is widespread because it will do precisely nothing to curb the distribution of illegal material online, while establishing the architecture for greater government censorship in the future."