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Exit in the News
Euthanasia group to show West Aussies how to die 'well'
Euthanasia group to show West Aussies how to die 'well'
May 3, 2013
Philip Nitschke says WA patients have bought new euthansia product
Philip Nitschke says WA patients have bought new euthansia product
May 03, 2013
THE man dubbed Australia's 'Dr Death' will show people at a Perth workshop how to use a new euthanasia product that claims to be quick, legal and totally undetectable.
And Exit International founder Dr Philip Nitschke says around 10 people from WA have already pre-ordered the nitrogen-based product - and he expects more to follow suit.
Nitrogen, he said, would not show up in an autopsy and the system used to administer it meant an individual would not need help. However the equipment used would need to be removed afterwards.
Despite this, Dr Nitschke said it was still one of the better legal options available.
In WA, the maximum penalty for assisted suicide is life imprisonment - the toughest penalty in the country.
"You don’t need any help and that is why this is legal. Your partner may wish to be with you but they don’t have to do anything,” he said.
"You can do it all yourself. Suicide itself is not a crime.
"But of course assisting is. And in WA it’s a crime that can attract life imprisonment.”
Dr Nitschke said he knew of five people in Australia who had used the nitrogen-based product, which starves the brain of oxygen. It has been available in Australia for the past six months.
He explained the nitrogen was "brewed" in a certain way to ensure a peaceful death.
And because the product can be used for other means, he claimed it was legal.
"We set up a brewing company to do this,” Dr Nitschke said.
"There are legal questions around helping people die. Because this can be used in several ways it can’t solely be argued that this just a system to help people die. It can be used for several reasons.
"It can provide people quite a quick, peaceful, totally legal and totally undetectable death. In that sense I will be explaining to that people tomorrow.
"This is the only option for un-detectability. If you die and someone takes away the equipment, no one will know you have died. Nitrogen is unique in that way. “
Anti-euthanasia groups say the product could be used with malicious intent and did require the involvement of a second party, which was illegal.
Around 60 people have pre-booked for Saturday's Dying Well in the West event at the Wembley Community Centre.
For those seeking support or for anyone feeling distressed, call Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978 or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Elderly get online 'suicide drug' tested - West Australian 6May13
Elderly get online 'suicide drug' tested
May 6, 2013
PHOTO Caption "He said nine of the 10 people who had their drugs tested were not seriously ill and had bought the drugs in case their health deteriorated and wanted to end their lives. Photo: Greg Newington
Ten West Australians in their 80s took their "illegal" packages of white powder they bought online to have them tested for purity at the weekend.
The substance in their possession had been sold as the euthanasia drug, Nembutal".
More and more people are buying drugs from China; people get their little white package of powder but are then fearful about what it is.
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke met with those who had purchased Nembutal from websites based in South America and China where the drug can be bought easily.
He supplied the equipment to test the purity of the drugs in private meetings following a workshop he held in Perth on Saturday.
"More and more people are buying drugs from China; people get their little white package of powder but are then fearful about what it is," Dr Nitschke said.
It is illegal to import Nembutal but Dr Nitschke said it still happened.
The drugs that were tested proved to be Nembutal, with purities of between 85 per cent and 99 per cent, which Dr Nitschke described as "good results".
"People were happy to know they had not wasted their money," Dr Nitschke said.
He said nine of the 10 people who tested their drugs with Dr Nitschke's equipment were not seriously ill and had bought the drugs in case their health deteriorated and wanted to end their lives.
Australian Medical Association (WA) president Richard Choong said purchasing medication online was a dangerous practice and that people had other options rather than taking their lives when they became seriously ill.
"When people are faced with these choices and they choose to take their life, it is not one that the AMA would support," he said.
"There are other avenues, you aren't going to be abandoned, there are ways of making sure death is without pain."
Dr Choong said Dr Nitschke's actions by providing testing equipment could reassure people in their choice to possibly take their life, which he did not agree with.
Sergeant Gerry Cassidy said supplying equipment for people to test drugs was not illegal and Dr Nitschke could only be charged if he was in possession of illegal drugs.
Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/elderly-get-online-suicide-drug-tested-20130506-2j2u0.html#ixzz2SUKqoIOM
Customs curbs suicide imports - The Australian, 11Mar13
Customs curbs suicide imports
The Australian March 11, 2013
THE number of suicides using illegally imported euthanasia drugs more than doubled in 2011 as more Australians sought to plan ahead for their death.
The Australian last month revealed Customs was trying to stop a surge in illegal imports and had detected 76 pentobarbitone products such as Nembutal in 2011-12, compared with only 25 two years earlier.
New data from the National Coronial Information System shows the border crackdown may have halted the rise in pentobarbitone deaths, even if only by forcing people to look for other means of suicide.
In 2010, there were 13 reported pentobarbitone deaths, but in 2011 that jumped to 30, with a further seven cases still under investigation. Last year, perhaps as a result of the Customs crackdown, the figure dropped to 17 with a further four still being investigated.
Between July 2000 and the end of last year there were 128 pentobarbitone deaths in Australia, with a further 13 still under investigation. Of those, more than half (70) who died were aged over 60, and two thirds of deaths (87) occurred at home.
Authorities had determined that in 24 deaths, the drug was sourced overseas, given the labels were in languages other than English, while 22 of those who died had access to pentobarbitone through the veterinary industry, so that was assumed to be the source. The source was officially listed as unknown for the remainder of cases.
A Customs spokesman would not comment on why the agency had decided to target pentobarbitone imports, other than to say it took a "risk-based, intelligence-led approach to detecting prohibited and restricted goods at the border".
All seizures are referred to the Australian Federal Police, although a spokesman said the agency had received only four referrals between April 2008 and August last year. None of those resulted in charges, even though the penalties for illegal imports range from imprisonment to fines of up to $825,000, or jail and a fine.
The AFP spokesman said that during the period in question, more than 8kg of Nembutal was seized, the largest single package about 300g.
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has previously said some terminally ill people blamed him for the crackdown, believing he had drawn attention to pentobarbitone.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is investigating two complaints against Dr Nitschke.
Euthanasia advocate to make complaint after Customs search - NZHerald 19Feb13
Euthanasia advocate to make complaint after Customs search
By Kieran Campbell
Tuesday Feb 19, 2013
Dr Philip Nitschke was held at Auckland International Airport until 2am. Photo
Euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke says he will make a formal complaint against Customs after being held at Auckland International Airport until 2am yesterday while officials scrutinised his and his wife's luggage.
The Australian activist, who is known by the nickname Dr Death, said he had been investigated by Customs officials coming into New Zealand before, but the inspection had never been as "severe" as it was on his current visit.
Dr Nitschke said he arrived with his wife in Auckland at midnight on Sunday and their luggage were searched "in detail" for prohibited items.
He said officials told him they also needed to search all of the couple's digital property, which included examining all documents on computers and memory sticks.
Dr Nitschke, who is in New Zealand for two workshops on how to source and use legal and illegal drugs for euthanasia, said nothing objectionable was found by Customs.
Article continues below
"My wife is saying she's never coming back to New Zealand again," Dr Nitschke told APNZ.
"I don't like being singled out. It's almost as if the policy is to make your entry into the country as miserable as possible.
"Absolutely [I will think twice about flying to New Zealand again]. I think it will be a good idea to make a formal complaint. I will be talking to our Wellington lawyers later today."
Dr Nitschke said he was told by Customs officials that they were working "as fast as they could" but some of their equipment used to examine digital documents had not been working properly.
"Our lawyers in Wellington made it clear that they have certain rights. The question is when is the inspection becoming unreasonable," Dr Nitschke said.
He spoke to a crowd of more than 100 in Auckland last night and will present in Wellington tomorrow where his key topic will be how to use nitrogen for a "reliable, peaceful, legal and totally undetectable death at the time of their choosing".
Dr Nitschke launched the company Max Dog Brewing last year, which he says can legally buy and sell nitrogen for brewing beer.
Dr Nitschke said he had a lifelong passion for brewing beer but admitted the company also provided a loophole so the drug could be supplied to people who wanted to use it for euthanasia.
He said his current trip to New Zealand would also include visiting the Christchurch Beer Festival on Saturday as part of Max Dog Brewing.
"If you were just going to say that we're marketing this product [nitrogen] only to help people die, there would be possible objections to that," Dr Nitschke said.
"Certainly in Australia it's very clear the gas can be used for brewing. We make it very clear that you can use it for a peaceful death or you can use it for brewing.
"I suppose you can do it for both if you wanted to - you can brew and then at some point you could use it to end your life."
He said he was expecting a large audience at his Wellington meeting and there were many New Zealand members of his pro-euthanasia group Exit International.
A spokeswoman for Customs said no complaint had been received from Dr Nitschke.
"If we do [receive a complaint] it will be treated in accordance with our standard complaints process and fully investigated. We are unable to make any further comment at this time," she said.
By Kieran Campbell KieranCampbell Email Kieran
Martin seeks Swiss death
Edition 1 -TUE 12 FEB 2013, Page 003
Martin seeks wiss death
By NIGEL ADLAM
A TERRITORIAN suffering incurable cancer is flying to Europe to die.
Martin Burgess, 69, hopes to use Switzerland's right-to-die law. His friends have chipped in for a one-way, first-class ticket.
"I want to die with dignity," he said. "What I'm going through now is not a happy state of affairs."
Mr Burgess said he merely wanted to be shown the same amount of compassion as a family dog hit by a car -- for someone to put him out of his misery when the time was right.
"If I go to Switzerland, it's guaranteed painless and peaceful, and nobody has to clean up behind me," he said. "Apart from which, there's this nagging fear that if I tried to do it myself I'd cock it up somehow."
Mr Burgess cannot commit assisted suicide legally in the Northern Territory.
The Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was overturned by the Federal Government in 1997 after being used by four patients.
A change in federal law late last year means the NT Legislative Assembly can reintroduce euthanasia.
But this is not expected to happen.
Mr Burgess, of Rapid Creek, Darwin, was diagnosed with rectal cancer in June. He has to use a colostomy bag and the cancer has spread to the outside of his lungs.
The retired massage therapist has smoked since the age of 14 but does not believe the addiction caused his illness. "I don't smoke out of my bum," he said.
Mr Burgess has been given up to 18 months to live. "The only thing I've got to look forward to if I don't do the Switzerland trip is becoming Bryan on the cigarette packets," he said. He was referring to the anti-smoking warning labels that feature a photograph of an emaciated and pained Bryan Curtis shortly before his death from cancer.
Mr Burgess said the pain before he had his bowel removed was "horrendous".
Palliative Care Australia chief executive officer Yvonne Luxford said quality palliative care didn't necessarily dull a patient's understanding and ability to communicate.
"Most people who are involved in palliative care would argue that the practice of high-quality palliative care helps to restore dignity to patients and to their loved ones at the end of their life," she said.
Caption: Cancer sufferer Martin Burgess is going to Switzerland to end his own life saying he wants to die with dignityPicture:DANIEL HARTLEY-ALLEN
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Sick of all the pain Jay books one-way ticket
Fight to the Death - The Australian, 11Feb13
Mon 11 FEB 2013
FIGHT TO THE DEATH
By SEAN PARNELL, HEALTH EDITOR
With patients such as Martin Burgess wanting to die peacefully before terminal illness kills them,euthanasia is again a politically charged subject in several states
WHEN Martin Burgess was diagnosed with rectal cancer a year ago he was prepared to fight, but adamant he did not want his insides cut out and a colostomy bag as his constant companion.
If his condition was terminal, the Darwin masseur decided, he would prefer to enjoy what time he had left and prepare for a demise of his choosing, before his life was no longer his to live.
As his condition worsened, however, those decisions were all but taken out of his hands, as Burgess was rushed into surgery to save his life.
Now, not only is he wearing a colostomy bag under his blue singlet, and missing parts of his body that you and I probably take for granted, but Burgess knows that his cancer will still kill him, anyway -- sooner rather than later.
The insidious disease has spread to the 70-year-old's lung, and probably his hip, a situation so grave that doctors are loath to say how many weeks or months he might have left.
Burgess wants to die before the cancer begins the torturous process of killing him. He sees no options in Australia so is working on the paperwork required to utilise the DIGNITAS euthanasia clinic in Switzerland. Not only does he have the support of euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke, but also that of his close friends in Darwin, who have pitched in enough money for an airfare -- one-way, first-class.
``The only thing I've got to look forward to if I don't do the Switzerland trip is (becoming) Bryan on the cigarette packets,'' Burgess says, referring to the anti-smoking warning labels that feature a photograph of an emaciated and pained Bryan Curtis shortly before his death from cancer.
``This is not a pretty way to go, mate. All the friends that I have would not be able to come and see me. I don't want to put anybody through it, anyway, watch me slowly wilting away -- it's not on.''
Euthanasia is not allowed anywhere in Australia and assisting suicide is a criminal offence. Some doctors are even loath to help those in Martin's situation prepare the paperwork for a trip to Switzerland, given others have been charged, convicted and even jailed for helping the terminally ill end their life.
But the laws in most jurisdictions are again up for debate as the ageing population keeps end-of-life issues on the political agenda.
Federally, the Greens have introduced legislation that would allow the Northern Territory -- which briefly allowed euthanasia until the commonwealth intervened in 1997 -- to resume the practice if it saw fit, so too in the ACT.
South Australia has debated euthanasia and related laws off and on while, in Tasmania, Premier Lara Giddings has joined the Greens to release a discussion paper on a model for ``voluntary assisted dying''.
In Western Australia, Opposition Leader Mark McGowan has also promised a euthanasia bill if he wins the election next month, partly motivated by the recent death of Barbara Harrison in Perth. The 64-year-old swallowed a bottle of the strong sedative and veterinary drug, Nembutal -- at home, alone, apparently worried anyone who was with her might be charged.
Palliative Care Australia chief executive officer Yvonne Luxford is concerned the politically charged and often emotive debate over euthanasia might blur the issues confronting the terminally ill and overshadow the need for increased funding for palliative care. Funding has not kept up with the demands of an ageing population, and Luxford believes the misconceptions and fears associated with palliative care are being fuelled by doctors with inadequate training or who are using outdated practices with regard to pain control and end-of-life care.
Quality palliative care, she says, addresses a patient's symptoms and doesn't necessarily dull their understanding and ability to communicate. When combined with an advanced care plan, such as a rejection of artificial ventilation or feeding tubes, it also offers patients a degree of comfort and control when they are at their most vulnerable.
``I think most people who are involved in palliative care would argue that the practice of high-quality palliative care helps to restore dignity to patients and to their loved ones at the end of their life,'' she says.
The association does not have a position on euthanasia as such, preferring to simply make it clear that euthanasia is not part of palliative care.
``It shouldn't be thought that euthanasia will solve all of the problems of those who feel they won't die well, nor the other way round,'' Luxford says.
Nitschke -- who is somewhat pessimistic about the chances of euthanasia again being allowed in Australia -- routinely meets people who want to be fully informed of their options, both legal and illegal.
``Almost all of them are elderly, some of them are sick, some of them are terminal, some of them are not sick at all but have heard of horrific experiences and don't want it happening to them,'' Nitschke says. ``Most people I talk to who are terminally ill, like Martin, have had access to good palliative care. They're quite happy and they're glad they've had that and it's certainly made an improvement to their daily condition and comfort.''
But Nitschke says these people see the balance shifting -- when the ``difficulty of living on becomes equal to the desire to end it'' -- and worry that the crucial decision about whether to carry on will be made by clinicians who might have a different view to them, not to mention a health system that is built around sustaining life.
The views held by Nitschke are certainly not shared by all doctors. He is the subject of two complaints that could see him deregistered, but he remains defiant, saying that he would continue helping people even if he was no longer able to practise as a doctor.
Nitschke says he is wary of the euthanasia debate being hijacked by the same ``fundamentalist religious political thinking'' he blames for the complaints against him.
``At the end of the day, no matter how excellent the palliative care is, there will still be one group who want to be able to bring on their death,'' he says.
There is no way of knowing the number of home euthanasia deaths in Australia, given it is, for all intents and purposes, just a subset of suicide.
But, for the terminally ill, euthanasia is vastly different to suicide: there are different motivations, different methods, different environments and, often, different considerations.
Burgess, for one, is remarkably upbeat for someone dying of cancer. He tells stories of his colourful life, particularly the most enjoyable last 20 years, and is humbled to have such wonderful friends.
The last thing he wants to be remembered for is his cancer or being a burden in death. He has decided that euthanasia is a better option than palliative care and certainly better than suicide.
He doesn't want to kill himself, he just wants to be shown the same amount of compassion as a family dog hit by a car -- for someone to put him out of his misery when the time is right.
``If I go to Switzerland, it's guaranteed painless and peaceful and nobody has to clean up behind me,'' he says, adding that he respects his friends and even his landlord too much to think about them having to discover his remains. ``Apart from which, I suppose there's this nagging fear that if I tried to do it myself I'd cock it up somehow.''
>> If you need help, call Lifeline's 24-hour crisis line (13 11 14), Men's Line Australia (1300 78 99 78), Salvo Crisis Line (02 9331 2000) or speak to your doctor.
Caption: Martin Burgess with euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke in Darwin and, below, DIGNITAS house in Switzerland
TABLE: DEMAND FOR CHANGE?
The debate over law reform remains passionate and polarised
Euthanasia advocate to visit Coast - 3Feb13
Euthanasia advocate to visit Coast
Andrew Potts | February 3, 2013
AUSTRALIA'S most prominent euthanasia advocate will bring his message to the Gold Coast this month.
Exit International founder Dr Philip Nitschke will hold a seminar at Robina Community Centre on Robina Town Centre Drive on February 15, to discuss the controversial life-ending options.
Dr Nitschke, who is currently being investigated by the Australian Medical Board for procedures involving terminally ill patients, will focus on a new 'end of life' procedure which uses cans of nitrogen gas.
"It has been developed in the past year and it is completely legal as it is easy to procure, given the cans are used as part of home brewing," he said.
"The Gold Coast has an ageing population which I find, as they get older, are more interested in planning their last days to make sure their death is not painful.
"Our members hope they never have to use the options which are available but it is important they know what they can do if the need arises," he said.
A film crew from Middle East television network, Al Jazeera, will attend the 2pm-5.30pm seminar and film Dr Nitschke's speech.
Euthanasia has been a controversial medical and ethical topic in Australia since the 1980s.
It was briefly legalised in the Northern Territory in 1995, until the Howard Government overturned those laws when it came to power in 1996.
Dr Nitschke has practiced medicine for 25 years and in this time has helped four people end their lives, including Burleigh resident Nancy Crick who died in May 2002.
For more information, email: email@example.com or visit: www.exitinternational.net
A matter of life and death - The Project, Ch 10 TV 6.30pm
A matter of life and death
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Belgian case throws spotlight back on euthanasia
Dr Nitschke’s “Deliverance Machine”, as used in the Northern Territory, allowed patients to control their final decision
Dr Nitschke’s “Deliverance Machine”, as used in the Northern Territory, allowed patients to control their final decision
In Belgium, it’s legal to perform euthanasia for adults. Those who wish to end have their lives ended need to convince a doctor and judges that they are suffering unbearable pain.
The case of identical 45-year-old twins who were born deaf and had discovered they were soon to go blind has hit the news worldwide. Their death last month by lethal injection has drawn attention because they were not terminally ill or in physical pain.
The euthanasia discussion is also ramping up again locally, with Tasmania due to debate a private members’ bill about legalising later this year. It’s being introduced by the Premier, Lara Giddings, and Greens leader Nick McKim, so it’s sure to attract considerable support.
It’s support that extends to the community at large, with a recent Australian Institute poll finding 70% support for voluntary euthanasia.
“If Tasmania were to bring in such legislation, you really couldn’t have other states saying how does Tasmania have this option and yet we’re denied it,” says prominent euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke. “So I think it would be the start of legislation finally getting traction in the other state parliaments around the nation.”
Dr Nitschke was behind the 1995 campaign that made the Northern Territory the first place in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia – though only four people took their lives before the federal government overturned the law in 1996.
Today, Dr Nitschke advises sick Australians on what drugs they can legally use when they feel they have no option but to seek intervention.
“No-one wants to use it, they just want to know that it’s there,” he says. “We’re all hoping that we never have to use it but we like to know it’s there as a safety net.”
Opponents often assert that vulnerable members of society would be euthanized against their will.
“The problem with euthanasia is that it sends an overt message to society that somehow the quality of life is tied to its utility,” says Nick Overton of the Australian Christian Lobby, “and as a result of that it puts at risk the very vulnerable people particularly those who are disabled and who are sick, the elderly and the depressed.”
But overseas studies suggest that this isn’t the case. A Dutch report found that even though euthanasia in the Netherlands became legal in 2002, ending of life without an explicit patient request in 2010 occurred less often than in 2005, 2001, 1995, and 1990.
Why to Americans balk at euthanasia laws - NYT 10Apr12
The Role of Religion in the U.S.
Philip Nitschke is the author of "The Peaceful Pill Handbook." In 1996, he became the first doctor to administer a legal, lethal, voluntary injection to four terminally ill patients under Australia’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
April 10, 2012
In 1996, the Northern Territory of Australia one of the most secular places in one of the world's most secular countries -- became the first place in the world to legalize voluntary euthanasia. In 2002, when the Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia, more than 40 percent of the Dutch denied any religious allegiance and only half claimed to be Christians. Oregon, the first U.S. state to allow assisted suicide, claimed that its lack of status as a "church state" meant that it had a unique moral flexibility.
As long as God plays an important role in the lives of Americans, these laws will be controversial in the U.S.
Now more than a decade later, Australia has over-rode its north’s truancy, Oregon's enlightenment has spread ever so slightly to next door Washington, and three other states -- Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania -- have laws pending. Meanwhile, the Dutch have progressed the debate almost beyond recognition, suggesting end of life choices should not be the domain simply of the terminally ill.
As long as religion plays an important role in the lives of Americans, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia will be controversial in the United States. If the right to die is to become an elective option in the U.S. in the same way chemotherapy or radiation are for those with cancer, the starting point must be a reclaiming of control over one’s body from God.
Who has the right to die? - Medical Observer 10Apr12
Who has the right to die?
10th Apr 2012
The euthanasia debate is back on the agenda – but is there a better way?
Bronwyn McNulty investigates.
ON 11 December last year, 61-year-old Wendy Benton, a former schoolteacher from South Adelaide, was struggling to walk down the hallway.
“She had a walker, and her little chin was on her chest – something had happened and it meant she couldn’t hold her head up any more – and I thought, ‘This is not right’. Her head was almost level with her bony little shoulders,” says her sister, Janine, 55.
As had become her usual practice, Janine had eaten dinner with Wendy, a motor neurone disease sufferer, earlier that evening. Hours later Wendy was dead, having taken a lethal dose of Nembutal (pentobarbital).
“I don’t know where she got it,” says Janine, 55.
Wendy was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in May last year. She first realised something was wrong when she couldn’t squeeze the trigger on the petrol pump.
Gradually more symptoms appeared: she began giggling uncontrollably for no apparent reason; she couldn’t pronounce the letter D; and she started falling over.
By June, the progression of the disease had picked up pace.
“She couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t lay down and she couldn’t swallow her saliva,” Janine says.
“She started to starve. She went from about 76kg down to just over 40kg. Watching her at the hospital, one or two nurses treated her like an idiot because she couldn’t talk... She ended up this clever, beautiful person, trapped in this terrible body.”
In June last year Wendy’s spirits had been buoyed by an application made by GP Dr Philip Nitschke to legally import Nembutal under the Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme (SAS).
“Wendy had been having trouble sleeping, and great difficulty obtaining decent nocturnal sedatives,” Dr Nitschke says.
But getting the drug meant more than that.
“Nembutal offered the additional and unique benefit of psychological comfort that a patient gets from knowing they can misuse this drug and they will die,” he says.
The application was never approved, and Dr Nitschke is still waiting to hear the verdict from AHPRA following an investigation into his conduct. (The TGA alleged he may have breached a requirement to prescribe the drug in accordance with good medical practice, and it has since passed the case on to AHPRA). Dr Nitschke faces possible deregistration.
In a letter dated 9 December 2011, Wendy wrote: “It is ridiculous, cruel and degrading to those involved that terminally ill adults of rational mind are not permitted access to such drugs lawfully for whatever purpose. To get these drugs in the final weeks of my life I have been turned into a criminal. Yet I have never broken a law in my life.”
Janine believes that if the SAS application had been successful, her sister could have lived for longer.
“I think she got terror stricken that she was going to lose the ability to do it herself,” Janine says. “If she couldn’t do it, she knew it couldn’t or wouldn’t be us.”
Presently, in all jurisdictions around Australia, anybody who helps a patient to hasten their death faces up to 14 years in jail.
Yet official polls show that the majority of Australians support the introduction of voluntary euthanasia laws.
A poll by the Australia Institute reported last year that 75% of Australians supported a change in the law on medically assisted dying, with 65% of Christians in favour, despite the fact that most opposition comes from religious groups.
“I have been saying it for 15 years so I feel a bit silly, but there’s a certain inevitability to it,” Dr Nitschke says.
Greens leader Senator Bob Brown introduced a bill to federal parliament in February last year in an effort to overturn the Andrews bill, which would mean the NT and the ACT would have the power to legislate regarding voluntary euthanasia.
In November this year, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann plans to introduce a bill to NSW’s Legislative Council, and in Tasmania, Premier Lara Giddings, supported by Greens leader Nick McKim, plans to introduce a voluntary euthanasia bill early next year. In South Australia there is a bill before the Lower House.
“Lara Giddings is the first premier we have seen in Australia who is passionate about the issue,” Dr Nitschke says.
“She wants it, and she is backed by Greens leader Nick McKim, which means the government there is, in effect, a coalition.
When you have got the two most powerful politicians in the state supporting this legislation, then ultimately that will happen there.”
Dr Nitschke predicts that if it does pass in Tasmania, pressure will mount on parliaments in the rest of the country.
“And they will see that the sky’s not going to fall in. In fact it will be greatly welcomed. It will probably give other politicians a bit of courage.”
Neil Francis, chairman and CEO of Your Last Right, believes that in years to come, when voluntary euthanasia laws are in place, people will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.
“In Belgium and the Netherlands there is robust epidemiological data that shows the rate of non-voluntary euthanasia has gone down in both countries since laws came into effect,” Mr Francis says.
“Over there, there is scrutiny, cases are reported for investigation, and there are ethics conferences and openness in discussing the issue.”
Although up to one third of Australian surgeons have reported giving drugs with an intention to hasten death, often in the absence of an explicit request, “here, no doctor will seek a second opinion because they will give the game away”, Mr Francis says.
“Here it is conducted with a nod and a wink, there are no standards of practice, no consultation, no referral to an ethics committee, no reporting and no review. That’s not a good standard of medical practice.”
Just as there’s medical futility, there can be palliative futility, Mr Francis says.
“The medical literature shows that for one out of 10 late-stage cancer patients, palliative care simply cannot provide relief. What then?”
Canberra GP Dr Craig Brown, who offers palliative care, says often providing generous doses of opioid (usually morphine) and tranquilliser (usually midazolam), is sufficient for symptom relief.
However, he says, in some cases the palliation does not seem adequate, and then the question that arises is, “Should we bat on, or embark on what I would call ‘extreme palliation’? That is, applying the doctrine of double effect, where we give a goodly dose of morphine and midazolam to relieve pain and suffering, but at the same time rendering the patient semi-conscious or unconscious?”
Applying this doctrine, Dr Brown says, is accepted practice, and not to do so in many cases would be poor practice. Unfortunately in a minority of cases it doesn’t work well.
“It’s just a horrendous situation when you have a person who can’t be palliated and wants to die,” he says.
“A patient can have terrific tolerance to the drugs, so you can get a case where you can give these drugs until the cows come home but the patient is still aware and suffering... In these cases euthanasia or physician assisted suicide (PAS) seems to be the best option for relieving the patient’s suffering.”
Everyone should be encouraged to obtain an enduring power of attorney and follow that with an advance care plan, he says.
Advance care planning is useful because it encourages people to discuss their wishes with their families. Yet they still remain a rarity.
A recent study by the University of NSW, published in the Australian Health Review, found only 0.2% to 5% of patients in aged care facilities had a care plan. Even for those who did, there were problems tracking down the plans or discussing them with relatives.
The authors of the study suggested creating new MBS items to fund the work in drawing up the plans as one of the ways of combating the ignorance and complexity, which they said was preventing their use.
Still, Palliative Care Australia’s president Dr Scott Blackwell says the principles of palliative care make it difficult for him to see a circumstance in which voluntary euthanasia is appropriate.
“We aim to assist people to maximise what they get out of life, minimise suffering, and help the people who are left to recover well,” he says.
“We are very, very interested in people having an end to their life that’s as good as it can be. We just fail to see that appointing a moment in time to do it is a good option.”
Wendy Benton’s sister Janine disagrees. “Wendy’s wish was that when it got too much for her, we could go to a medical facility and spend precious time together until she could be sent on her way. She believed, had that been an option, she could have got on with living.
“But she was terrified. If you love someone, why would you want them to go through this? Why does a terminally ill person need everybody’s permission not to die in agony? It’s not love to let people suffer like this.”
Jail for helping friend suicide 'a savage first' - The Australian 17Feb12
Jail for helping friend suicide 'a savage first'
February 17, 2012
A FORMER Queensland teacher is said to be the first Australian to get a full-time jail term for the crime of assisting suicide.
The judge questioned whether the man had been motivated by "financial interest" when he helped his friend die.
Euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke condemned the jailing for six months of Merin Nielsen, 50, as "savage", saying he was unaware of anyone being jailed for assisting a suicide, though others had been convicted of the offence.
On Wednesday, a jury accepted Nielsen had gone to Mexico to buy the drug Nembutal for his friend, Frank Ward, 76, and convicted him on the charge of assisting in the elderly man's suicide on June 20, 2009.
The pair had been friends for 30 years and Nielsen was the sole beneficiary of Ward's estate, the Supreme Court in Brisbane was told.
...Judge Jean Dalton said Nielsen had deliberately defied the law and sentenced him to a three-year term. But the former teacher, now studying for a PhD in philosophy, would be released on parole on August 15, meaning he would serve only six months.
Justice Dalton said there was no evidence Ward had been seriously ill at the time he took the lethal dose obtained by Nielsen.
"There was no doubt on the evidence that Frank Ward wished to take his own life should circumstances amount, in his view, to a situation where he was no longer independent or no longer had quality of life," Justice Dalton said.
"The involvement (with Ward) was obviously more than just some philosophical chats about the idea that Frank could take his own life."
Justice Dalton said Ward had had a stroke in mid-2007 and "overreacted" to his illness, perhaps because of his experience in caring for his late wife's long illness.
He changed his will and power of attorney about the same time. A previous will left his estate to a meditation group.
"It must have occurred to you that you had a financial interest, a personal financial interest in Mr Ward's death," Justice Dalton told Nielsen.
"At about the same time you got in contact with (euthanasia group) Exit International, you became the sole beneficiary of his will."
In mid-2009, Ward believed he had suffered another stroke but "because of (his) attitude to doctors" he did not seek medical attention and the condition - which the judge accepted was serious - was not diagnosed.
The following day Nielsen received $7000 cash from Ward and went to Mexico. Ward was found dead on the day of Nielsen's return. Toxicology tests showed he died from an overdose of Nembutal.
Outside the court, a close relative of Nielsen, who did not want to be named, said the verdict was unjust and the judge had seriously misjudged Nielsen's character.
Dr Nitschke, the director of Exit International, said Ward had discussed euthanasia but not organised a plan. Nielsen was "perhaps naive" but shouldn't be in jail, he said.
In 2008, Shirley Justins was sentenced in NSW to weekends in jail for two years after she was found guilty of the manslaughter of her partner, Graeme Wylie.
Threat to Nitschke's career after bid to import nembutal - SMH 14Feb12
Threat to Nitschke's career after bid to import nembutal
Sydney Morning Herald
February 14, 2012
CAPTION: Philip Nitschke ... promotes Nembutal as the "peaceful pill"
Controversial euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke could be barred from practising as a doctor as a result of an inquiry into his application to import the sedative nembutal to use as a sleeping pill for a terminally ill patient.
The inquiry by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which registers and regulates doctors, started in late November, even though Dr Nitschke's application had not been decided.
The patient, a 61-year-old South Australian woman with motor neurone disease, has since died, so there was no need to proceed with the application to import the drug.
The woman left a letter that said: "That I cannot sleep due to this disease has meant that I get no respite ... and I cannot live life to the fullest in the precious time I have left."
The barbiturate nembutal is now used in Australia only by vets to euthanase animals.
Illegally imported from Mexico, it was at the centre of the case surrounding the death of Sydney pilot Graeme Wylie.
But in the '50s and '60s barbiturates were commonly used as sleeping pills.
Under a TGA special access scheme, doctors can apply to import it for use for terminally ill patients under strict conditions.
Dr Nitschke's barrister Robert Richter, QC, said he was attempting to understand how AHPRA could launch an investigation before the application had been approved.
"[Dr Nitschke] applied for permission to import. He's not going to prescribe it until permission has been granted."
Exit International's executive director Fiona Stewart said many terminally ill people were devastated when told the organisation could not help them under this scheme until the investigation was concluded.
AHPRA also requested Dr Nitschke's files of three other patients for whom he had initially applied for permission to prescribe nembutal even though their applications had been suspended following legal advice.
The investigation is examining the allegation his planned prescription of nembutal as a sedative to terminally ill patients was "contrary to good medical practice due to the lack of safety and efficacy of [nembutal]".
Dr Stewart said the concept of "good medical practice" needed to be challenged.
"Giving terminally ill people access to lethal drugs is good medical practice," she said.
Mr Richter said: "It's a fairly nebulous concept."
Former Sydney stockbroker Simon Eldridge, who also has motor neurone disease, said he was upset the option of using legal nembutal to help him sleep was not available because of the legal uncertainty.
He said he was aware the drug could kill him, but this was not the reason he wanted it.
"The major way my body fights the disease is through rest," he said.
His wife, Sheila, said the couple were "very supportive of Dr Nitschke and his cause to help people that need drugs to help them sleep".
Mr Eldridge's GP, George Quittner, said he would ask patients for an assurance they would take the drug only as a sedative, but admitted the patients might lie to him.
"It's not my job to be a policeman. I'm a doctor and I always do my best to support and assist my patients in what they do unless I'm breaking the law or some moral imperative."
Geesche Jacobsen is the Herald's Legal Affairs Reporter.
Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/national/health/threat-to-nitschkes-career-after-bid-to-import-nembutal-20120214-1t32c.html#ixzz1mOXTZSwb
The End of Life Inevitably - Courier Mail 11Feb12
The End of Life Inevitably
SAT 11 FEB 2012,
By Trent Dalton
"On my car you'll see a sticker, `I would rather die like a dog'. Vets are kinder than the medical profession and politicians'"
THEY came to talk about dying.
Over warm tea and Monte Carlo biscuits, they spoke of killing themselves with plastic bags filled with nitrogen.
There were video snippets of an elderly woman giving a craft class on how to give your plastic suffocation bag some decorative knitted flair.
In the surreal and jarringly pragmatic workshops of Dr Philip Nitschke, there are strangely more laughs than tears.
This workshop was lunchtime last Saturday in West End.
Dr Nitschke stood on a stage beside an old wooden piano.
He wore a loose tropical shirt with shorts and sandals. He was dressed like a man turning sausages at a barbecue.
But his table wasn't filled with tomato sauce and tongs. His table carried a small brown bottle of an effective euthanasia drug imported from Mexico.
Nitschke was in town to attend the Supreme Court trial of Merin Nielsen, a 50-year-old Mt Nebo man charged with aiding the suicide of his 76-year-old friend, Frank Ward, found dead in a Clayfield unit in 2009 after allegedly taking a high dose of a drug normally used to euthanise animals.
A guilty verdict for assisting a suicide in Queensland brings life imprisonment.
Nielsen's trial is being closely watched by euthanasia advocates and critics across the world.
``Desperate people do desperate things,'' Nitschke said. ``The commonest method in Queensland used by the elderly to end their life is, by far, within the context of serious illness, hanging. The government should be ashamed of that statistic.''
There were chronically ill people in the audience. There were adult children representing their parents.
Nitschke has aided the deaths of four of his patients. They used his infamous ``Deliverance Machine'', which gave computerised cues enabling patients to actively engage in the acceptance of lethal doses of end-of-life drugs.
The machine now resides in a display cabinet in the British Science Museum, between, he boasted proudly, ``(James Watt's) first steam engine on one side, and Logie Baird's first television on the other side''.
Eminent company, indeed.
When the museum requested to display Nitschke's machine - long since illegal in Australia - the man known as Dr Death asked the curator if he had concerns about legal ramifications in Britain. ``Gosh no,'' replied the learned British historian. ``We can display it as some quaint artefact from the colonies.''
The voluntary euthanasia picture in Australia is as horrific as it is contentious: Queenslanders burying end-of-life liquids in their back yards; people in their 80s illegally smuggling drugs in from Mexico.
A man is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He refuses to go down that harrowing illness's path.
He swallows a handful of pills and overdoses. Only makes himself sicker. He tries to kill himself using exhaust fumes. Only makes himself sicker. He turns to his partner in desperation, begs her to help. His partner, in turn, begs a friend to help and the friend flies into Los Angeles, travels down through San Diego into Mexico, and returns with two bottles of the euthanasia drug, Nembutal. The man drinks the Nembutal. His last words are: ``Peace at last.''
In an autopsy, euthanasia drugs are found in the man's blood. And the man's partner, who assists in the man's death, is charged with manslaughter.
Nitschke told his audience of an influx of end-of-life drugs coming into Australia from China. His workshop showed guests how to conduct purity tests for these Chinese drugs.
He showed them how to end a life using nitrogen. And the guests were deeply grateful.
In a break in Nitschke's workshop, an elderly couple, Fred and Lorna Rose, aged 83 and 79, approached me.
Fred pointed to my notepad, demanding I write something.
``On the back of my car you'll see a sticker that reads, `I would rather die like a dog','' Fred said. ``Vets are so much kinder than the medical profession and the politicians.''
I asked Fred if he had made plans for his death.
``I would rather not answer that because I don't want anybody to interfere with intelligent arrangements which we have made for the process of end of life inevitably.''
Fred then rushed off to find Nitschke, who was enjoying a private cup of tea in the Kurilpa Hall kitchen.
Fred put a hand on Nitschke's shoulder. His eyes were about to weep with emotion.
``I just want to thank you for taking my greatest worry away,'' he said.
Two ladies by the coffee urn nodded in agreement, filling their paper plates with Monte Carlos.
For 24-hour help, phone Lifeline Australia, 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue, 1300 224 636
Caption: oxygen bottle; medical equipment; man at a doctors surgery; cup of coffee; bottle of water
Man on trial for helping friend's death - SMH 3Feb12
Man on trial for helping friend's death
Sydney Morning Herald
February 3, 2012
A man accused of helping an elderly friend to kill himself met with a right-to-die advocacy group to learn how, a Brisbane court has been told.
Merin Nielsen, 50, of Mt Nebo west of Brisbane, is on trial in the Supreme Court for aiding the suicide of his 76-year-old friend Frank Ward.
Mr Ward was found dead in his Clayfield unit on Brisbane's northside on June 20, 2009, after allegedly taking a high dose of a drug normally used to euthanase animals, which was not available in Australia.
Advertisement: Story continues below The court heard on Friday that Nielsen and Mr Ward had met two members of Nancy's Friends - a subgroup of euthanasia advocacy organisation Exit International - to learn how to assist in a suicide, and Nielsen had taken notes during the two meetings, in 2007 and 2008.
However, the two witnesses - Beryl Morman, 74, and Bronley Norman, 68 - both told the court they could barely remember meeting with Nielsen and Mr Ward.
They both also refused to answer specific questions about what was discussed in the meetings in case it incriminated them.
It is illegal in Queensland to assist someone to commit suicide or provide any advice or counselling about how to do so.
Both said they had required Mr Ward and Nielsen to sign waivers before the meeting stating they would not put the advice they had received into practice.
Queensland Police Acting Sergeant Jeremy Hunter told the court he was one of the first on the scene and found Mr Ward's wallet, which had a card inside indicating Merin should be contacted in an emergency.
Sgt Hunter said he had called Nielsen, who had admitted he had been with Mr Ward only hours before he was found dead in his loungeroom.
He said Nielsen had told him he was a good friend of Mr Ward and was made a beneficiary in his will, but did not mention anything about the method Mr Ward used to kill himself.
"(Nielsen) stated to me he (Mr Ward) was in good spirits and was very philosophical and talkative about life," he said.
The high-profile case has prompted right-to-die campaigner Phillip Nitschke to visit Brisbane on Saturday to teach the sick and elderly how to dodge Queensland's assisted suicide laws.
The trial will resume on Monday.
© 2012 AAP
Dr Philip Nitschke under investigation over death of woman - Advertiser, 23Jan12
Dr Philip Nitschke under investigation over death of woman
January 23, 2012
Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke is being investigated by medical authorities after the death of a terminally ill woman in Victor Harbor. Source: The Advertiser
MEDICAL authorities are investigating euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke following the death of a terminally ill Victor Harbor woman.
An investigator has been appointed to determine if it was "good medical practice" for Dr Nitschke to attempt to legally import the death drug Nembutal as a sedative for the woman, 61, who had spoken of ending her life to escape "an awful death".
The investigator is working for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Medical Board of Australia, which has the power to revoke medical licences.
Police attached to the Coroner's office will also interview Dr Nitschke to determine if he played any role in the woman's death last month.
In a letter, the former secondary school teacher says she obtained illegal death drugs herself and she resented that this had turned her into a "criminal".
The woman, whose family has requested anonymity, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last May and her condition deteriorated rapidly. At the end she was unable to speak, had limited mobility and was fed via a tube.
In the note, she wrote of her intense frustration caused by a lack of sleep.
She used an iPad with voice software and a computer to communicate. "My decision to end my suffering, rather than waiting for the disease to finally take hold of me is a long and considered one," the woman wrote in a signed 1½-page, typed letter that is dated December 9, three days before her death.
"Motor neurone disease is an awful disease. It deprives a person of their dignity and their independence. To get this drug in these final weeks of my life, I have been turned into a criminal. Yet I have never before broken a law in my life. I resent this state of affairs.
"In deciding to end my suffering, I hereby state this act is by my own hand. I am assisted by no one; neither by Dr Philip Nitschke, my sisters or friends or any other person."
In her letter, the woman says she contacted Dr Nitschke within two weeks of her diagnosis to obtain sodium pentobarbital or Nembutal to help her sleep because "I cannot sleep ... my energy levels are down, my mood is low and I cannot live life to the fullest in the precious time I have left".
When she took delivery of the drugs, she states that she "immediately felt a weight lift from my shoulders" because the drugs had given her back her independence.
In September, the Therapeutic Goods Administration told Dr Nitschke that he was able to legally import sodium pentobarbital to help the woman sleep under the Special Access Scheme.
But according to Exit International, it was a lengthy administration process to fulfil the criteria and the drug has not yet been imported.
Dr Nitschke, who is refusing to speak about the matter, has written to the AHPRA arguing that it was "good medical practice" to prescribe Nembutal to a patient experiencing considerable difficulty sleeping after already using available medications.
He has also stated the woman was not prescribed sodium pentobarbital.
Exit International executive director Dr Fiona Stewart said that it was tragic that the TGA program was taking too long so "(the woman) was forced to take matters into her own hands".
"At Exit, access to a barbiturate like Nembutal is not only about a good night's sleep. It is also about relieving what you might call the existential suffering," she said.
The woman's sister, who found her body propped up on pillows in her bedroom, said she knew nothing of the drugs her sister had obtained.
But she said that as a fiercely independent person she was often having items delivered. "She obviously arranged it herself ... he (Dr Nitschke) had no involvement at all," the sister said.
"Seeing her with a feeding tube was heartbreaking. Towards the end she was virtually starving to death ... she was just over 40 kilos."
AHPRA and the Coroner's office would not comment.
- If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Please let me die - Sunday Times (UK) 22Jan11
PLEASE LET ME DIE
The Sunday Times
SUN 22 JAN 2012,
By John Mooney
John Allen knows it is only a matter of time before he is confined to a wheelchair. The 49-year-old former computer programmer from Mayfield in Cork city suffers from a degenerative joint disease affecting his knees, hips, hands and ankles. The disease is causing his bones to disintegrate, and has now spread to his spine.
"I'm in constant pain and taking heavy medication to make life tolerable. I have a wheelchair, but I'm not using it. The doctors have told me to stay standing for as long as I can, but the pain is overwhelming," he said.
Allen no longer thinks medicine can stop the spread of the disease.
"It's an insidious condition. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, living in crippling pain. Suicide is what I'm planning to do. I understand this scares people, but I want the choice to die at a time of my own choosing," he said.
"If my quality of life reaches the stage where I'm bed-ridden, I'd rather die. I don't want to be left unable to walk, in chronic pain, so I'm planning ahead."
When he cannot take any more of the pain, Allen intends to swallow a lethal dose of Nembutal, a powerful barbiturate used by vets to put animals to sleep.
He is not afraid of "moving on" but does worry about the timing. "Do I wait and let my condition worsen and allow it to develop into a situation whereby I might need someone to help me to die? If I wait and ask my wife to help, I'll be putting her in a position where she could be prosecuted by the gardai."
The Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993, which decriminalised suicide, states that anyone who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another is guilty of an offence which carries a penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment.
"If my wife helps me to die, she could be prosecuted. I have very strong views on this. I believe the situation that we find ourselves in is disgusting," Allen said.
THE legislative change in 1993 made no provision for people to provide assistance to those who wish to die and who are physically unable to end their own lives.
Simon Mills, a barrister who specialises in medical law, described the current situation as unclear. "There are two aspects to this: what the law says and what it means," he said.
"For example, if a person is disabled and wants to commit suicide, and the medicine they wish to use is in the next room, if someone goes and gets it, is that person aiding and abetting a suicide? I don't know the answer.
"The law says it's a crime to aid and abet, but we don't know what it actually means to aid and abet a suicide. The reality is that a significantly disabled person, who wishes to commit suicide and who will not be criminalised if they do, cannot do so because they are disabled.
Meanwhile, an able-bodied person who wishes to commit suicide and does not need anyone's help, can do so legally."
Mills said the situation could be described as discriminatory, but there were other legal complexities. "If the help you wish to give someone to commit suicide, which is a legal act, involves taking them out of the jurisdiction to another country where assisted suicide is legal, is that an unlawful act? There is no clarity about what extent the law will permit assistance to be given, and at what point the law will prosecute, but I know of situations where gardai are intervening when people attempt to help loved ones to travel abroad to end their own lives."
The barrister said Irish courts traditionally made a clear distinction between steps taken by people to ensure that the life of a terminally ill person would not be prolonged, and steps which involved the act of ending or shortening a life.
"There is a clear moral difference between acting in support of a terminally ill person who is compos mentis, and all of those awful scenarios like involuntary euthanasia. Assisted suicide exists in a significantly different moral sphere because it's taking steps in partnership with someone who is dying. It's hard to imagine anything further removed from murder," Mills said.
Despite assisted suicide being a criminal offence, Irish people are going abroad to end their lives. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and in some American states. In most countries, the practice is restricted to people with incurable diseases and applicants must be permanent residents. Switzerland is unique in allowing groups such as Dignitas to expedite the death of almost anyone.
Some people who do not have the financial resources to travel abroad, or have been stopped from doing so by gardai, are killing themselves in their own homes, usually with the help of others who risk a jail sentence if caught.
Gardai in Dublin are pursuing an assisted-suicide investigation after Bernadette Ford from Donnybrook was found dead at her home last June. Weeks earlier, she was warned by gardai against travelling to a Swiss euthanasia clinic with a friend. Ford was approached by detectives at a Dublin travel agency as she and the friend collected tickets for flights to Zurich, where she planned to end her life at a centre run by Dignitas. Her companion was told she could be arrested and jailed if she helped her friend to die.
The couple abandoned their journey but Ford subsequently died after consuming a cocktail of drugs, and left a note saying she had acted alone. Investigators suspect it may have been a ploy to ensure nobody else could be prosecuted.
In Britain, where writer Terry Pratchett has been leading a campaign to legalise assisted suicide, prosecutors are advised to follow a set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that people who act with compassion are not put on trial. However, assisted suicide is still illegal there.
The guidelines, published two years ago, urge prosecutors to avoid cases where someone is helped to die by a relative if their wishes are clear and not subject to influence. Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) issued the guidelines after a ruling by the Law Lords in a case brought by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who asked for guidance on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped end her life.
No such guidelines exist in Ireland, according to Tom Curran, a former IT specialist from Wicklow who is now a full-time carer for his wife, Marie, who has multiple sclerosis. After he addressed a public meeting on the issue, the authorities warned Curran that he could be prosecuted if he complied with his wife's wishes by helping her to commit suicide.
"I was invited into Wicklow garda station after I mentioned our plans. There was a view that I was just putting this out there, because I had some ulterior motive. The gardai even did a financial check to see if I would benefit from Marie's death," he said.
"The state, through the Heath Service Executive, did a psychological investigation into Marie's mental state. They sent out a psychologist to see if Marie was sane. They concluded she was."
Curran said he had already made the decision to do "whatever is required of him" rather than let his wife suffer once she wishes to end her life.
"If she is in such pain that she can no longer tolerate it, then I have a duty to help her die if that's what she wishes. I love Marie. I often try to detach myself from it, almost as if I'm talking about someone else, because that's the only way I can cope. But when Marie asks me, I will do it," he said.
"She is angry about the fact that disability is robbing her of her choice, because suicide is legal. But her illness has reached the point where she could not do it herself, so she would need my help. I am fearful of what will happen, that I could spend 14 years in jail. I have often thought that surely the easiest thing would be for me to go with her, as I can't imagine putting my family through a criminal trial."
Curran said the threat of prosecution under the 1993 act was encouraging some terminally ill people to end their lives prematurely. "I know two people who travelled to Switzerland because they feared that if they didn't go while they could travel alone, they wouldn't find anyone who could take them," he said.
Curran, a campaigner for Exit International, a pro-choice group, believes that opposition to assisted suicide is rooted in the Christian belief in the sanctity of life.
Eight Irish people have travelled to Switzerland in the past two years to end their lives at clinics run by Dignitas. Silvan Luley, a spokesman for the group, is critical of the government's position on the issue. "Why is it ignoring people's right to end their life self-determinedly in a safe and dignified manner at their homes and forcing them to travel abroad instead? Is such an approach dignified?" he said.
Dan Neville, a Limerick TD who is the president of the Irish Association of Suicidology, insists the issues are far more complex. "If you introduce assisted suicide in a limited way, the boundaries would inevitably change. If people feel they are a burden to their relatives or the system, they could choose to die. They might feel obliged to relieve their families or the system of their presence," he said. "Could the state deem people who are terminally ill as people who simply cost too much to care for? "While I'm not saying they would proactively suggest suicide, the system could develop an attitude towards such people which could put subtle pressure on them to decide that the most advantageous thing for everyone, including themselves, would be to die. Would inheritances ever come into play among families confronted by this issue, I wonder?" Neville sympathised with terminally ill people who wished to end their lives. "I understand where they are coming from, but we need to think about society and its broader implications," he said.
A spokesman for Alan Shatter, the justice minister, last week said that there were no plans to amend the 1993 act to enable people to assist relatives or friends to end their lives. If charged, those convicted of aiding or abetting a suicide will continue to face a 14-year prison sentence, if convicted.
'' THE GARDAI EVEN DID A CHECK TO SEE WHETHER I WOULD BENEFIT FROM MY WIFE'S DEATH
Caption: John Allen plans to take his life rather than suffer from his degenerative disease, but does not want to place his wife in legal jeopardy
Doctor to test deadly drugs - Sunday Times 22Jan12
SUN 22 JAN 2012
By Todd Cardy
WEST Australians who have bought euthanasia drugs by mail order from overseas will be able to evaluate them at workshops hosted by right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke.
Dr Nitschke, who will return to Perth this week for the first time in a year, said packages of the preferred suicide drug Nembutal had been ``flooding in'' to Australia, mainly from China.
He said there had been a surge in interest for information on euthanasia from terminally ill WA people.
The increasing interest, coupled with the ``relative ease'' of ordering the drug online, had prompted his decision to launch a testing program and he will hold a public meeting/workshop at Wembley Community Centre on Wednesday.
Nembutal is banned in Australia except for veterinary use and it is illegal to import it without permission.
Right to Life Association WA president Peter O'Meara urged police to charge Dr Nitschke or any others who imported or possessed illegal suicide drugs.
The Sunday Times was awaiting WA Police comment.
Suicide drug flooding into Britain from China - The Independent 22Nov11
Suicide drug flooding into Britain from China
22 November 2011
By Mark Branagan
A powdered version of one of the world's most lethal drugs is flooding illegally into Britain from China to feed a growing euthanasia market.
Enough of the drug to kill three people can be flat-packed into envelopes, a controversial suicide "workshop" was told yesterday. The banned sleeping draughts was once marketed to British housewives as an elixir for a healthy sleep.
But cracking macabre jokes for his audience of over-50s in York, the Exit founder and Australian campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke (pictured), known as "Dr Death", laughed: "They found it had a side effect - death. The meeting, the last stop in a British tour by Dr Nitschke which has Ben widely condemned by church leaders and Christian groups, was told the drug - which was withdrawn from sale in the UK in the late 50s and replaced by Valium - was only supposed to be available to vets.
Support for Exit from Territory Sex Party - NT News 4Nov11
Support for Exit from Territory Sex Party
Northern Territroy News
FRI 04 NOV 2011
THE Territory Sex Party supports a push by right-to-die advocate Philip Nitschke to reintroduce voluntary euthanasia.
Spokeswoman Seranna Shutt said Territorians should have the same rights as animals.
``If an animal is in pain and going to die you would not make it go through pointless pain,'' she said. ``Humans should be treated no differently.''
She said the party has urged the NT Government to reintroduce voluntary euthanasia laws after new legislation that restricts the Federal Government's veto powers.
Decide now to Exit in Peace - Gold Coast Sun 3Nov11
Decide now to exit in peace & Prepare for inevitable: Nitschke
Gold Coast Sun
WED 02 NOV 2011,
THE need to prepare for death will be the hot topic at a voluntary euthanasia seminar with Exit International founder Dr
Philip Nitschke on Saturday.
Dr Nitschke (pictured) will lead a public forum of about 100 people at the Carrara Community Centre to discuss what people should do if they want the right to die.
He will also discuss why the terminally ill should not leave decisions to the last minute and the legal issues their family and friends may face.
The public seminar will be followed by an Exit International meeting for members and will be restricted to those who are over 55, or are very sick.
Gold Coast Exit International co-ordinator Elaine Arch-Rowe said the ageing population and high numbers of retirees on the Coast had increased the group's membership.
She said the average age of members was 65 but people did not need to be sick or dying to join.
Decide now to exit in peace
Gold Coast Sun
THU 03 NOV 2011
By TANYA MARSCHKE firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTHPORT'S Jill Kleinman watched her husband die slowly and painfully from cancer.
That's why she believes her ``best friend'' deserved the right to choose to take his own life.
After her husband passed, Mrs Kleinman heard voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke speak and she has been a member of Exit International ever since.
``My husband died 11-and-a-half years ago - he was absolutely riddled with cancer,'' she said.
``I heard Dr Nitschke speak and I thought that was how my husband Danny should have gone.
``He died by slow euthanasia - they kept upping the morphine.
``I was with him when he went but he didn't know I was there. It was heart-breaking.''
Years later, Mrs Kleinman's best friend, 82-year-old Patsy Spencer, committed suicide by taking a fatal dose of euthanasia drug, Nembutal.
``She lived in the same retirement village as me and she was definitely losing her marbles,'' Mrs Kleinman said.
``She was aware that she had early onset dementia and she was getting slightly paranoid - she didn't want to go completely
``I believe she also had cancer and if she did she would have had a very painful death.
``I know she was very ill.''
Mrs Kleinman said Patsy wasn't herself towards the end and, in the last few months, she really went downhill.
``I saw her after she died when the police were there and she looked so peaceful and beautiful - she had applied makeup before she died.
``My advice is to join Exit International while you are in charge of all your faculties.
``You have to be prepared to do it yourself, there is no legal way someone can help you.''
Call: 1300 103 948
Caption: Jill Kleinman's husband Danny had a slow death from cancer.
Gold Coast Sun
03 NOV 2011,
The Gold Coast Medical Association refuses to take a stance when it comes to voluntary euthanasia.
Association president Dr Peter McLaren (pictured) said it was up to each member to form their own opinion when it came to conscience issues.
But he supports it on a personal level.
No end in sight for his mission - Gold Coast Sun 6Oct11
No end in sight for his mission
Gold Coast Sun
THU 06 OCT 2011,
By TANYA MARSCHKE
IT is not easy to help someone end their life - just ask voluntary euthanasia advocate, Dr Philip Nitschke.
Dr Nitschke is known as the first doctor in the world to give a legal, voluntary lethal injection to a dying patient.
He is headed to the Gold Coast as part of his controversial campaign to enshrine in law the right for terminally ill people to end their own lives at a time of their choosing.
Dr Nitschke was involved in the first legal voluntary euthanasia death when he helped Northern Territory cancer sufferer Bob Dent die on September 2, 1996.
``It was extremely difficult to think about,'' he said.
``I ended up building a machine that enabled him to press the button.
``I came around to his house, he said he would have lunch and then he would die - I was by myself, it was a stressful time.''
Dr Nitschke said the machine asked two questions about whether the patient wanted to die and gave a final warning. It required three presses of the button.
The warning said: ``If you press this button you will die.''
``He died in his wife's arms,'' Dr Nitschke said.
Four people used Dr Nitschke's machine, now in a British museum, before the Northern Territory law was repealed in 1997.
Dr Nitschke said he had just started working as a doctor in the Northern Territory when the possibility of legalising euthanasia was being discussed.
``I was taken aback by the strong opposition from the medical association,'' he said.
Rejecting assertions that all doctors opposed euthanasia, Dr Nitschke and about 20 other doctors decided to take out an advertisement in a Darwin paper saying they supported voluntary euthanasia and his involvement grew from there. ``We did get the law through,'' he said.
Dr Nitschke said he became involved because he thought it was the right thing to do but he only started working with terminally ill people after announcing his support for voluntary euthanasia.
When the Northern Territory law was overturned, Dr Nitschke formed Exit International to give practical advice and work on the political campaign to once again legalise voluntary euthanasia.
It has branches throughout Australia, including one on the Gold Coast.
``Overturning the law hasn't stopped people from turning up at the door,'' he said.
Exit International seminar
Carrara Community Centre
Saturday, November 5, 1pm
Exit International: 1300 103 948
Caption: Dr Philip Nitschke will speak at a Gold Coast seminar in his continued efforts to legalise euthanasia
Bids to change laws increase
VOLUNTARY euthanasia is illegal in all states and territories in Australia but attempts are being made in South Australia and Tasmania to change these laws.
A Bill has been put to the South Australian Parliament to provide a medical defence for doctors who provide treatment which shortens a patient's life.
Euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke said multiple Bills had been put to the South Australian Parliament in the past and although all had failed, the outcome had been closer each time.
He said there was no movement to legalise voluntary euthanasia in Queensland and those caught helping someone commit suicide could face life in jail.